Senators cool to 5-year extension of martial law
Several senators are not too keen to consider the proposal of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez for a five-year extension of the martial law proclamation in Mindanao, many of them waiting for a security briefing on the progress of its implementation.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said a second briefing for the senators was expected to take place before President Rodrigo Duterte’s Proclamation No. 216, limited under the Constitution to 60 days, expires on July 22.
Speaking to reporters, Pimentel said he and some majority bloc senators were set to meet with the President after the submission of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law in the Palace on July 17.
“There is no fixed agenda but since we are there so we would be discussing priorities now that the second regular session will start,” he said.
Congress returns on July 24.
Pimentel was asked whether he would bring up with Mr. Duterte proposals to extend martial law.
“Yes, that will be discussed because that’s the 55th day,” he replied. “If there is no intention to request an extension, it will lapse after 60 days.”
The Senate President said he had not yet taken a position on whether an extension was needed and would only take a stand after the security briefing.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said he did not agree with Alvarez’s proposed five-year extension of martial law. Lacson questioned the basis of the Speaker’s proposal.
“Even the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) has indicated that it may not be necessary, hence won’t recommend it,” Lacson said in a text message.
He was referring to the military’s statement on Monday that it found a five-year extension “too long.”
Like Pimentel, Lacson said the recommendations of police and military officials would influence his decision.
Sen. Francis Escudero noted that “both the Palace and the AFP are lukewarm and have distanced themselves from Alvarez’s proposal.”
Drilon urges debate
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said “Congress, in a joint session, should debate and decide first on the need to extend martial law, before talking about the length or period of extension.”
Drilon earlier urged the President to notify Congress if he wanted to extend martial law before July 22 so that Congress could tackle it when it holds a joint session for Mr. Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address on July 24.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said an extension of the proclamation should be “justified by competent authorities and in this case, defense officials.”
“They should [convince] us that there is no other option,” Trillanes told reporters.
Sen. Nancy Binay also underscored the importance of the security briefing before any discussion of how long to extend martial law.
Binay, chair of the Senate tourism committee, said the martial law proclamation had affected tourism in the country because of the wrong perception that Metro Manila was also affected by the conflict in Marawi City.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said he believed the military could stop rebellion in Mindanao in a year’s time but stopping terrorism was a “different story.”
“Terrorism could be anywhere in the Philippines … so you can never wipe it out,” Sotto told reporters, agreeing that terrorism could not be used as justification for an extension of martial law.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement on Monday that as the chief martial law administrator, he would follow the path laid out by the national government.
“While we respect the position of our lawmakers and laud their support to the military, we believe that the declaration of martial law is an extraordinary power of the President as Commander in Chief that must be resorted to only when warranted by our national security circumstances,” Lorenzana said.
Anchored on rule of law
“Our Constitution has prescribed limitations precisely to prevent its being abused as it has implications to the country’s peace and order, economy, trade, tourism and our people’s way of life,” he stressed.
“Every decision we make and operation we undertake is anchored on the rule of law and respect for human rights. They can trust their Armed Forces to protect them and advance the people’s best interest,” Lorenzana said.
The chief of the Philippine National Police, Director General Ronald dela Rosa, told reporters that he and the AFP chief of staff, Gen. Eduardo Año, had agreed that they would recommend a martial law extension if the President asked their opinion.
“But not five years, 60-60 na lang muna (just 60 days),” Dela Rosa said. “If we recommend, it would be within the legal parameters.”
He said he did not think extending martial law by five years was acceptable to the people.
Vice President Leni Robredo on Tuesday advised Congress to listen to military officials. “Let us discuss first what is really happening,” she said in an interview in Naga City. —With reports from Nikko Dizon, Jeannette I. Andrade, Jocelyn R. Uy, and DJ Yap
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