Congress votes 261-18 to extend Mindanao martial law ’til year’s end
Congress on Saturday voted to extend martial law in Mindanao until the end of 2017.
This was the result of the joint special session held in the House of Representatives, where both the lower House and the Senate convened and tackled the request of President Rodrigo Duterte to extend martial law in Mindanao.
According to the 1987 Constitution, Congress should vote jointly in a special session to determine the period of extension of martial law, but only upon the initiative of the President.
At least 16 of the 20 senators present, while 245 of the 291 House members, voted to approve Resolution of Both Houses 10, which called for the extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of writ of habeas corpus until the end of the year.
Meanwhile, four senators voted against the resolution, while 14 House members also voted against it. No lawmakers abstained during the voting.
All in all, 261 members of the Congress (both House and Senate) overwhelmingly voted to extend the Mindanao martial law, while only 18 voted against it.
“The result of the voting in Congress show that 261 in the affirmative and 18 in the negative. The motion to extend proclamation of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of writ of habeas corpus is hereby approved by the Congress,” Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said, reading the tally, before banging the gavel.
House leaders were open to convening Congress to tackle the extension of martial law, although they earlier rejected calls to convene both chambers to deliberate on the report of the President when he first imposed martial rule in Mindanao.
Instead of convening to tackle the martial law when it was initially declared, Congress instead passed a resolution finding no reason to revoke the President’s proclamation.
The vote came as troops continued their two-month long fight to wrest back the southern city of Marawi from Islamic State-inspired militants.
Duterte first declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23 shortly after the gunmen, waving the black flags of the IS group, occupied parts of Marawi, triggering weeks of bloody fighting.
Philippines-wide martial law?
The vote was largely a foregone conclusion as Duterte enjoy majorities in both houses of Congress.
But opposition lawmakers dragged out the debate, questioning why martial law was needed for the whole of Mindanao when the fighting was limited to only one city.
“I fear that the plan to extend the martial law in Mindanao will pave the way for a Philippines-wide martial law,” said Senator Risa Hontiveros ahead of the vote.
A slide presentation accompanying Duterte’s request, seen by AFP, compared the Marawi crisis to the Islamic State takeover of the Iraqi city of Mosul.
Marawi itself could now become a magnet for foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria, it said.
Most of the militants’ leaders remain at large, the presentation added, while about 90 of the gunmen have slipped past security cordons and can link up with other armed groups in the region to mount similar widescale attacks.
At the hearing, defense and security officials justified the extended martial law, saying that aside from Marawi, Islamist militants were planning attacks in other parts of Mindanao.
They said almost a thousand pro-IS militants, holding 23 hostages, were still active elsewhere in the south. With a report from Agence France Presse/JPV/ac
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