Martial law cheered, jeered at House
One of President Duterte’s allies said the declaration of martial law in Mindanao should help authorities solve “other problems like criminality” in the region, though the threat of the Maute group was confined to only a small part of it.
Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny T. Pimentel said he believed the Maute group, whose members launched an attack in Marawi City, was limited to only Lanao del Sur province.
“I think it’s confined to Lanao only. As far as the provinces in Caraga region, Region 13, we have not sensed any presence of the Maute group,” he told reporters in a doorstep interview.
But he believed Mr. Duterte was right to declare martial law over the whole of Mindanao because of other issues facing the region.
“The Maute group may be confined to Lanao, but there are other problems with regard to security and peace and order in other provinces. This is just one decision to solve the other problems in other provinces,” he said.
Pimentel said he did not see martial law as an overreaction to the Marawi crisis. “No, I don’t think so. The proclamation of martial law is timely so we can solve other problems like criminality.”
But Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, a strong critic of Mr. Duterte, said he found his decision to place the entire Mindanao under martial law worrisome, considering that Maute attacks were confined only to Lanao del Sur.
“Citing security problems, aside from Maute, in Western and Central Mindanao as the reasons why the declaration covers the entire Mindanao is something that we should consider deeply because those security issues have been there for the longest time,” he said.
“This may mean that martial law could extend much longer than intended,” Alejano said.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, leader of a House opposition bloc, said Congress should study carefully “whether there is a constitutional basis for an expanded coverage like the entire Mindanao area.”
He reminded the government that under the 1987 Constitution, a “state of martial law does not suspend the operation of the Constitution, nor supplant the functioning of the civil courts or legislative assemblies, nor authorize the conferment of jurisdiction on military courts and agencies over civilians where civil courts are able to function, nor automatically suspend the privilege of the writ.”
Akbayan Rep. Tomasito Villarin said the decision to place Mindanao under martial rule was “another knee-jerk reaction to the Mindanao situation.”
“It shows [Mr. Duterte’s] shallow grasp of the deep-seated and recurring problem in southern Philippines,” Villarin said.
Makabayan lawmakers also expressed opposition to the proclamation of martial law in Mindanao.
“We strongly urge President Duterte to immediately lift the Martial Law declaration,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, who described it as “extremely alarming.”
“The events in the recent past were ominous of a militarist path: the placing of the entire country under the state of emergency, the military’s quick declaration of an all-out war against the [Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front], the continued militarization of many areas in Mindanao, including the Moro areas, the growing militarization of the civilian bureaucracy, and now, the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao,” he said.
ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio denounced Mr. Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao, describing it “as an unjustifiable recourse to fascistic and militarist methods for dealing with social unrest in our society.”
“It is ironic that the first President to hail from Mindanao has now placed his home island under martial rule. His declaration paves the way for an intensification of war against the people of Mindanao, especially in Moro and lumad areas, and will lead to even more gross violations of human rights and civil liberties,” he said.
Most of Mr. Duterte’s allies, however, were supportive.
Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles said: “I am 100 percent sure that the people of Mindanao are behind President Duterte in his decision to declare Martial Law in the region.”
“The attack in Marawi is a clear case of rebellion, and to preserve public safety in Mindanao and ensure that clashes do not spill over to other parts of the island and the Philippines, President Duterte was correct in placing Mindanao under martial law,” he said.
Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon, a senior vice chair of the House defense and security committee, said he personally approved of Mr. Duterte’s response.
“It’s decisive and appropriate to the threat posed by the terrorist group ISIS,” he said, referring to the Islamic militant group to which the Maute group was reportedly sympathetic.
“The necessity of imposing it Mindanao-wide is due to the fact that the extremists can easily try to distract the state security forces by launching counter- and diversionary attacks within Mindanao due to their presence in the island and ease of deployment,” Biazon said.
“Martial Law enables the security forces to be a step ahead of the terrorists,” he added.
He conceded, however, that some sectors would be concerned about martial law.
“This is where Congress comes in. The Constitution is designed to task Congress to temper the declaration of Martial Law as part of the Constitution’s mechanism for check and balance,” Biazon said.