THE House of Representatives will approve President Rodrigo Duterte’s recommendation to extend martial law and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao until the end of 2017.
“I would say it would be smooth sailing. We have seen surveys, and the public approves of declaration of martial law in Mindanao. It means the people recognize the depth of the problem,” said Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, a staunch ally of Duterte, on radio.
Alvarez issued the statement four days before the House and the Senate convene in a Special Joint Session to decide on whether it would uphold or junk President Duterte’s request for an extended martial law as the military has yet to eliminate the Maute group holed up in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.
A week ago, a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed 57 percent of Filipinos approved the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
“We also need to consider that while clashes in Marawi have deescalated, it doesn’t mean that the problem is solved. They could retaliate, and people in and out of Mindanao share that fear of retaliation,” Alvarez added.
Under the Constitution, the President can declare martial law for 60 days in case of rebellion, invasion or when public safety requires it. The Constitution also provides that the President can ask Congress for an extension of the validity of his initial martial law declaration.
Alvarez then cited that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana also admitted that the government underestimated Maute since the terrorist group was able to stockpile a lot of high-powered weapons and cash.
But for party-list lawmakers Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis, Antonio Tinio of Alliance of Concerned Teachers and Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna, Congress should not give up its oversight powers by promptly agreeing to President Duterte’s proposal.
“We call on the leadership of both houses not to railroad this [approval of martial law extension. There should be a comprehensive, substantive deliberation on the merits and demerits of this extension. The declaration must be based on documented, validated data, and not be limited to information coming from the President and the military,” Casilao said.
“Congress has the oversight power on this Presidential proclamation. Let’s not taint the credibility of Congress by being subversive to the Executive’s wishes,” Casilao added.
Tinio backed Casilao, noting that the approval of the extension of martial law should not be ceremonial.
“Congress should be responsible in exercising its authority,” Tinio said.
Zarate, for his part, argued that the victims of the prolonged armed conflict under martial law should be heard before an extension of the proclamation would be put on the table.
“We need to hear from the evacuees, the community leaders from Maranao ranks, as well as other victims outside the conflict areas. It’s their voice that should be heard here,” Zarate, who is from Davao City like the President, added.