UPDATE 4: Congress votes to extend martial law in Mindanao until Dec. 31, 2017

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CONGRESS has overwhelmingly voted to extend martial law and suspend the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao until December 31, 2017.

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The combined total of the votes is 261-18, with 245 members of the House of Representatives and 16 senators saying “yes” as opposed to 14 and 4 saying “no” during the special joint session on Saturday at the Batasang Pambansa.

The senators allied with President Rodrigo Duterte supported his proposal to extend martial law in the southern Philippines.

They were Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd, as well as Senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Francis Escudero, Richard Gordon, Gregorio Honasan 2nd, Panfilo Lacson, Loren Legarda, Manuel Pacquiao, Francis Pangilinan, Grace Poe, Joel Villanueva, Cynthia Villar, and Juan Miguel Zubiri.

The opposition group in the Senate, which rejected the President’s appeal, were Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Paolo Benigno Aquino 3rd, Risa Hontiveros, and Francis Pangilinan.

In explaining his vote, Drilon said that the factual basis for a continued martial law in the entire Mindanao and an extension of up do December 31, 2017 “did not meet the requirements of the Constitution.”

“If this Congress, as it is, gives full and unqualified assent for the continued martial law in the entire Mindanao, where there is no evidence of actual rebellion outside or Marawi City, then we might have just been reduced to a mere echo chamber,” Drilon said.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, who voted “yes”, said he “would have preferred a shorter period, to prod an earlier end, because a protracted war only prolongs the agony of civilians caught in the vice-grip of war.”

“But it is out of respect to those in the frontline, to the soldiers in the line of fire, that I am acceding to a five-month extension of martial law. If they say that it is vital to victory, then such must not be denied to them,” Recto said.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said he was concurring with the President’s assessment that “there is a necessity to continue the implementation of martial law until December 31 to achieve the paramount objective of restoring peace under civilian authority”.

Sen. Cynthia Villar approved the extension of martial law “to show support to our mostly young soldiers, in fact 100 of them died and to prevent the movement of terrorists to and from Marawi City”.

Sen. Manny Pacquiao voted “yes” because it was the “right time to support government to exercise its authority and power to discipline people.”

Duterte sought for an extended martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao to suppress a supposedly continuing rebellion led by the combined forces of the Maute group, Abu Sayyaf,  Ansarul Khilafah Philippines and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

The majority number required for the approval of martial law is 158.

Under the Constitution, the President can declare martial law for an initial period of 60 days and ask for its extension in case of rebellion, invasion or when public safety requires it.

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