• LIBERALS INSIST ON JOINT SESSION OF CONGRESS TO TACKLE DECLARATION

    Govt hits Reds for ordering offensives amid martial law

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    THE government on Thursday slammed the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) move to intensify offensives amid the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, calling it “an insult” to President Rodrigo Duterte’s “candor and genuineness” in seeking a peaceful end to their decades-old insurgency.

    In a statement, Labor Secretary and government peace panel chairman Silvestre Bello 3rd said the CPP misunderstood Duterte’s intention in declaring martial law in the entire region of Mindanao.

    “We are deeply disturbed that the Communist Party of the Philippines made a false reading of the intents of President Duterte in placing Mindanao under Martial Law,” Bello said.

    “We therefore find the CPP directive to the NPA (New People’s Army) to intensify attacks as totally misplaced borne out of a grossly distorted appreciation of the President’s intention.”

    The peace panel chief stressed that Duterte is not after the communist rebels.

    Bello also called on the CPP to “correct its error and recall its senseless order” or risk being “construed as abetting the criminal and terror acts of the Maute group and a gang of Moro bandits.”

    Duterte on Tuesday declared martial law in the entire Mindanao island amid the ongoing clashes between government troops and the Maute terrorist group in Marawi City.

    Clashes in Marawi City erupted as government troops were about to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, an Abu Sayyaf leader who has been named the Philippine head of the Islamic State.

    Reds: Maute linked to AFP

    Responding to martial law in the south, the CPP ordered its armed wing, the NPA, to conduct more offensives as their way of resisting the martial law declaration of the President.

    “The Party calls on the NPA to plan and carry out more tactical offensives across Mindanao and the entire archiepelago,” the CPP said in a statement.

    “In the face of the Duterte regime’s martial law declaration in Mindanao, the necessity of waging revolutionary armed struggle becomes ever clearer,” it added, as it also urged the NPA to accelerate its recruitment of new fighters.

    The CPP claimed that Duterte’s imposition of martial law “was made on the narrow pretext of armed clashes in Marawi City between the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and the so-called Maute Group, a bandit group whose leaders have known links with military officials.”

    “Duterte’s martial law declaration in Mindanao has gone beyond Marawi. It has a much wider target and purpose,” it added.

    But Duterte on Wednesday assured the public that there would be no abuses in the implementation of martial law in Mindanao.

    The government peace panel and the CPP’s political arm, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, are scheduled to resume peace talks in the Netherlands this week.

    Liberals insist on joint session, buck martial rule outside Mindanao

    As this developed, the erstwhile ruling Liberal Party (LP) on Thursday appealed to the leaders of Congress to rethink their position not to call for a joint session to examine the President’s declaration of martial law and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

    “With all due respect to our esteemed colleagues, Congress must hold a joint session, in a public and transparent manner and in an official proceeding,” said LP President Sen. Francis Pangilinan.

    The senator said Congress could go into executive session to prevent very sensitive matters, which may compromise ongoing operations and the safety of security forces, from being discussed in public.

    While the President’s powers under Article VII Section 18 of the Constitution does not mandate Congress to approve the declaration of martial law and suspension of the writ, public accountability, transparency, and the right of the people to be informed of matters of public interest are all constitutional tenets, and thus form constitutional bases for the joint session, Pangilinan said.

    Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd said there were no moves to revoke martial rule, which would trigger a call for a joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

    “While some senators expressed concern about possible abuses, it is not calling for the revocation [of martial law], that is only calling for vigilance which is correct because we need to be vigilant always,” Pimentel told reporters by phone.

    The LP expressed its support for Duterte’s move to declare martial law in Mindanao to defeat the Maute terror group, but said it saw no reason to expand it to the Visayas and Luzon.

    Pangilinan said there existed no Visayas-wide or Luzon-wide invasion or rebellion to merit the declaration of martial law as allowed under the 1987 Constitution.

    “Absent any nationwide rebellion or invasion, we will vigorously oppose a nationwide martial law declaration,” Pangilinan said in a statement.

    Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, also of LP, likewise sees no reason why Luzon and the Visayas should be placed under martial law.

    “Let’s see the basis for that. I don’t see it today, I don’t know if he proclaims it there would be a basis,” Drilon added.

    Detained Sen. Leila de Lima, a Duterte critic, said there was no need to declare martial law in the first place because security forces have the capability and experience to put an end to the Marawi crisis.

    The military was able to quell the Zamboanga City siege in 2013 by more than 300 members of the Moro National Liberation Front that killed six people, she noted.

    De Lima also claimed the President was using martial law as an excuse to plant the foundations of authoritarian rule.

    “I call on my fellow members of Congress to faithfully perform their duties under the Constitution to exact from the President his obligation to report to Congress, in order for the latter to independently determine, based on such report, the propriety and necessity for the declaration or continuation of martial law,” she said in a statement.

    with JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA

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