Declaring martial law may become a gov’t habit, senators tell security execs
MANILA, Philippines — Senators have raised concern that the government may get used to declare martial law if Congress grants its request to extend its declaration in Mindanao for another year.
Senators aired this sentiment during a closed-door meeting with security officials on Monday, Senator JV Ejercito said.
Among those who briefed the senators in the meeting held in the Senate were Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and AFP chief of staff Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr.
“Concern na maging senator, baka maging regular na ito o normal na na hingi kayo nang hingi,” Ejercito told reporters.
“So they want specific results, concrete achievements na sa sana in one-year dapat yung ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group) neutralized na, yung private armies maubos na rin, yung loose firearm ma-recover na,” he said.
The most “nagging” question, he said, was the things that could be done or could not be done with martial law.
“Bakit kelangang may martial law e kaya naman yata kahit wala? Tingin ko yan ang magiging question this coming joint session of Congress,” Ejercito said.
The Senate and the House of Representatives will hold a joint session on Wednesday to tackle the proposed extension of martial law in Mindanao until December 31, 2019.
Mindanao was first placed under martial law on May 23, 2017 after the ISIS-inspired Maute Group attacked Marawi City.
Since the Constitution provides that martial law can only be imposed for a maximum of 60 days, Duterte later asked Congress to extend it until December 31, 2017.
The President again asked Congress for another extension of martial in Mindanao until December 31, 2018.
Ejercito said he was inclined to support another extension of martial law mainly for two reasons—to neutralize private armies in the area and to address the problem of loose firearms in the country.
Of the estimated 500,000 loose firearms all over the country, he said, more than half of the number are probably from Mindanao.
Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III was also convinced that there was a need to extend martial law in Mindanao.
“I think they were able to present some very compelling reasons for us to really consider the extension so we’ll discuss it within ourselves and then hopefully, let’s see how the debate goes as far as the Wednesday joint session is concerned,” Sotto said in a separate interview.
“In my opinion, there is a continuing rebellion, there is actual rebellion ongoing,” he said.
So when asked about his opinion on the President’s request for extension, Sotto said: “Personally, I’m convinced.”
“As I said, I think there is actual rebellion happening,” he added.
Senator Nancy Binay said she has yet to reflect and get the sentiments of the people in Mindanao before deciding whether or not to support the extension.
“Nag-iisip pa,” Binay said.
The senator said she has yet to consult the people in Mindanao as they are the ones who would be affected by martial law./ac
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