THE House of Representatives agreed on Wednesday not to revoke President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of a 60-day martial law and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus that allows warrantless arrests in Mindanao.
The House, which convened as a Committee of the Whole, agreed to adopt House Resolution 1050 supporting the President’s declaration under Proclamation 216.
“The House of Representatives’ support for President Duterte’s declaration of Martial Law is a courageous move. We are convinced that the intention of the President is only to uphold our democratic way of life, protect lives and properties and defend our country’s territory. There is nothing to fear in this Duterte martial law,” House appropriations panel chief Karlo Nograles of Davao City said in a statement.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, one of the security officials who briefed lawmakers on the offensive against the Maute group in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, echoed Nograles.
“Our troops have three bridges to hurdle to take over the heart of the city, and that is our goal: to cross these three remaining bridges,” Esperon said in an interview.
“Once we cross those bridges, then it’s settled. Martial law is 60 days, and we should avail [ourselves]of that. If there is a need to extend it, we have to ask Congress if they will authorize it,” Esperon, a former Armed Forces chief of staff, added.
Under the 1987 Constitution, martial law declared by the President cannot be extended beyond 60 days without the approval of the majority of the joint membership of the House and the Senate.
For Representatives Edcel Lagman of Albay and Gary Alejano of Magdalo party-list, the briefing of the Cabinet members on the martial law declaration in Mindanao proved that such declaration had no legal grounds.
Lagman noted that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana did not recommend to President Duterte the declaration of martial law in Mindanao and that the President did not consult key officials.
Moreover, the military establishment admitted that what precipitated the armed conflict in Marawi was the military operation to neutralize or capture Isnilon Hapilon, a high-profile terrorist leader.
“Except for common crimes, no charges of rebellion have been filed against the suspected culprits in the previous terrorist violence committed in Mindanao and elsewhere, according to the military establishment representatives in the presence of Justice Secretary of Justice Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd. The resource persons from the Executive Department and the military and police authorities have not established a credible factual basis for the declaration of martial law,” Lagman said in a separate statement.
Lorenzana confirmed on Wednesday that martial law was not needed since the military can contain the crisis in Marawi City, but emphasized that it is needed to address security concerns in Mindanao.
The Defense chief made the clarification after minority senators said in a press briefing Tuesday that he did not suggest nor consider martial law amid attacks launched by militant terrorist members of the Maute group in Marawi City last week.
Lorenzana said the imposition of martial law will be necessary if it will address the problem in Mindanao “immediately and decisively.”
“The situation currently being dealt with by State security forces goes beyond Marawi City. President Duterte’s imposition of martial law aims to put an end to the long-running rebellion in various provinces in the south, as evidenced by the incidents that happened in Zamboanga, Davao, Bohol, Lanao, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi and Maguindanao,” Lorenzana added.
Defense Undersecretary Arsenio Andolong on Wednesday disclosed that after the bombing in Davao City last year, the Defense chief and the National Security chief suggested to the President the declaration of martial law.
PNP to run after narco-terrorists, politicians
The Philippine National Police (PNP), meanwhile, will “take advantage” of Duterte’s imposition of martial law in the whole island of Mindanao to arrest narco-politicians and solve the illegal drug problem.
PNP Chief Ronald de la Rosa said the use of drugs helped the Maute launch attacks in Marawi City last week.
“Let us take advantage of martial law so that aside from the terrorists, the drug problem and loose firearms in Marawi will also be cleared,” he said in a radio interview.
“We all know that the area [of Marawi]is full of guns, weapons so this also includes drugs, but we still have to follow the court rules in arresting [the suspects],” de la Rosa added.
De la Rosa earlier backed Duterte’s claim that the Maute are involved in illegal drugs, as stated in the latter’s report justifying the martial law declaration that was submitted to Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on May 25.
with DEMPSEY REYES