Opposition senators worried about possible nationwide martial law
Opposition senators fear that the extension of martial law in Mindanao would pave the way for a nationwide declaration of martial law.
An overwhelming number of lawmakers – the Senate voting 16-4 and House of Representatives 245-14 – voted “yes” to the extension of military rule until the end of Dec. 31, many of them citing serious terror threats in the entire region.
But senators who were not in favor of President Rodrigo Duterte’s recommendation fear that the development might serve as a precedent for a military rule in the entire country.
Explaining her vote, Akbayan Sen. Risa Hontiveros said she “cannot trust a government that has played God with the lives of eight to twelve thousand Filipinos to wield martial law judiciously.”
Hontiveros was referring to the thousands of deaths in the name of Duterte’s bloody drug war.
“I fear that the plan to extend the martial law in Mindanao will pave the way for a Philippines-wide martial law,” she said.
“The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) has been quite clear in demonstrating the threat of terrorism in Marawi,” she said. “But while the threat is clear and the need for urgent response compelling, one thing remains unanswered: exactly how martial law contributes to meeting this threat. Walang maisagot dito ang ating mga security advisers, na ang tanging nasabi ay kailangan ng ‘enhanced security-based operations’.”
Hontiveros stressed that the government should not rob troops of the glory they deserve by attributing recent victories against terrorism to martial law.
The minority senator then reminded her colleagues in Congress that “we are here to protect democracy, not the despotic whims of one man.”
“We are a chamber of lawmakers not President Duterte’s echo chamber,” she said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, said that he found no sufficient basis nor actual evidence of actual rebellion in Marawi City.
The senator fears that “tomorrow, we will wake up with martial law being declared in the entire country under the justification of an existing rebellion in Marawi, and the threat, however remote, of rebellious activities spilling over other parts of the country.”
Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, also explaining his vote, shared the apprehension of Drilon and Hontiveros.
He questioned why the government would need five more months to clear four barangays in the conflict-torn Marawi City when the military was able to wipe out terrorists in 16 villages within 60 days.
“Hindi pa rin panatag ang loob natin na kung sakali sa darating na mga araw na magkaroon ng isolated acts of terrorism either in the Visayas or in Luzon, will this be the basis to declare martial law in Luzon, in Visayas or nationwide?” Pangilinan said.
For his part, Sen. Bam Aquino said the mere presence of martial law in the country put democracy in an “unusual and unstable situation.”
“Ngayon po na mayroon tayong Martial Law, hindi po ganoon katibay ang kinatatayuan ng ating demokrasya,” he said in his speech. “Kaya po, ang pagpapasyang kailangang gawin natin, tayo ba ay magpapalakas sa ating demokrasya o tayo po ba ay gagawa ng mga desisyon na posibleng makapaghina dito.” /atm
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