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Solons warn about economic impact of prolonged martial law

/ 04:43 PM July 10, 2017
congress house of representatives

In this May 31, 2017 file photo, members of Congress convene the Committee of the Whole to exercise its power to review the recent declaration of martial law in Mindanao, at the House of Representatives in Quezon City.  (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

MANILA — Lawmakers are on the fence about the need to extend martial law in Mindanao, fearing that too much of it would affect confidence by investors and the international community.

Although they are inclined to agree with a short-term extension if there is factual basis, Muntinlupa Rep. Rozzano Rufino Biazon and Kabayan Party-list Rep. Harry Roque Jr. have cautioned against an “unnecessary extension” of martial law.

Their statements came after Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Saturday that “if I can convince my colleagues, I will push for an extension until 2022, because two months is too short.”

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Biazon, the vice-chairman of the House’s national defense committee, said he would support the continued implementation of martial law if authorities are unable to quell the threat of armed groups and if it is shown the powers granted under the May 23 proclamation were indeed utilized.

However, he told the INQUIRER that an “unnecessary extension might have unintended consequences to our economy, tourism industry, investor confidence and others.”

“It will give the impression that we are unable to contain the situation using normal powers of government,” he said in a text message.

Roque, meanwhile, said in a Monday press briefing that he would be “comfortable [with extending Martial Law] for another 60 days,” although he said “I hope it will be for the shortest time possible.”

He cautioned against pushing it longer than that because “the international community may already conclude that we have long-term problems as far as peace and order is concerned.”

“Martial Law, even if warranted, even if there is factual basis for it, is never good for the country. A continuing declaration of Martial Law is an admission to the entire world community that there is rebellion or invasion in the Philippines…,” Roque said. “This is never good for business, this is never good for tourism, it is never good for our international reputation.”

Suarez leaves it up to President, AFP

Sought for his comment about Alvarez’s remarks, House Minority Floor Leader Danilo Suarez said it would be President Duterte’s call to extend martial law. He added that the Armed Forces of the Philippines would be the sector to really know how long it should last.

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“Just looking at it, an extension is in order,” Suarez said in a phone interview. “How long it will be extended will be up to the President, if they will make a request to the House.”

Rep. Edcel Lagman of the opposition Magnificent Seven group, which claims to be the House’s true minority bloc, said: “It stands to reason that any extension should not exceed the original maximum period of sixty (60) days as   provided [sic] in the Constitution.”

In his statement on Monday, he also wondered why senators and representatives have started talking about the prospect “when the President has not even officially initiated such an extension.”

Another Magnificent Seven legislator, Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano, said extending martial law to 2022 “will practically render the constitutional safeguards useless, which was envisioned by the framers of the 1987 Constitution to avoid the repeat of a Marcos-type martial law.”

Big business’ motives

Two lawmakers from the militant Makabayan bloc, which belongs to the administration-dominated House supermajority, saw an ulterior motive behind the administration’s push to extend the declaration of martial law.

ACT-Teachers Party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio called Alvarez’s remark “an appalling prospect, but not unexpected,” especially in light of the Supreme Court’s July 4 decision which he said “enabled the virtually unfettered exercise of the President’s martial law power.”

“It’s becoming more evident that the Marawi crisis was merely the pretext, but the Duterte regime’s plan all along is to place all of Mindanao under permanent martial rule,” Tinio said in a statement on Monday.

He said Duterte and his allies have been keen to implement big infrastructure and agribusiness investments in Mindanao funded mainly by China and expected to displace poor farmers, the indigenous lumad and the Moro peoples.

“His administration is turning towards more repressive tools, such as martial law, in the hope of suppressing the resistance of the poor and marginalized so that these big-ticket projects will push through,” Tinio said.

Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Jane Elago echoed that “the ‘counter-terrorism’ bogey is merely a pretext for a nationwide all-out offensive against the people, that has long been floating around their heads.”

Elago said “business elites, political enemies and imperialists,” such as the United States and China, have been showing support for martial law to further their own interests. “Even the LP [Liberal Party]
through Vice-President Leni Robredo has expressed their support,” she added.

“Their persistence to heighten martial rule is but a sign of the increasing instability of the system, and a desperate attempt at reconsolidating the state in the ruling class’ bid for control and super-profit,” Elago said.

She said this has come at the expense of civil rights of Moro civilians, Lumad communities and other unsuspecting persons who have been accused of being New People’s Army rebels or Maute fighters.

Rewarding military’s incompetence

Another Makabayan lawmaker, Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, noted that Alvarez was expressing a personal opinion but nevertheless said he would again oppose extending martial law.

Citing Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s July 6 admission that the military “underestimated” the magnitude of the Maute problem, Zarate said extending martial law would be “like giving premium to a grave failure and tolerating incompetence.”

Tinio warned the Duterte administraton has been “ignoring the lesson of history that martial law will not bring peace but only further violence to the people of Mindanao,” while Elago said the situation would “amplify the resistance of the people and their cries for social change.”

Zarate said martial law should be lifted instead and the government should focus on the roots of Mindanao’s long-standing problems.

“Mindanao’s peace and development do not hinge on Martial Law or its extension or expansion; rather, these depend on how the historical wrongs and injustices that bred so much poverty, inequality and
rebellions are being addressed,” he said.  SFM/rga

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