MANILA — Malacañang on Monday expressed optimism that Congress would approve President Rodrigo Duterte’s request for a one-year extension of martial law in Mindanao.
“We are hopeful that Congress would see the need for further extension of martial law as explained in PRRD’s official communication to finally put an end to the ongoing rebellion in Mindanao,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Palace briefing.
“Public safety after all is our primordial concern. We must unite against these evil forces,” he added.
Roque said he believes Congress will approve the extension before Dec. 31.
”There’s talk that Congress will either convene in joint session either on Wednesday or Thursday. So if it’s Thursday, then they will have to have a special session,” he said.
Latest information coming from the House of Representatives on Monday stated that a “Joint Session to consider the request of the President for the further extension of the proclamation of Martial Law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao for a period of one year, from Jan 1, 2018 to Dec 31, 2018, will be on Wednesday, Dec 13, 2017, at 9 a.m.”
In the meantime, Roque said critics opposed to the extension of martial law in Mindanao “are free to challenge martial law anew in the Supreme Court.”
He cited the two petitions filed by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman before the SC challenging the declaration of martial law in Mindanao on May 23 and the July decision of Congress to extend it to December 31.
“He (Lagman) has filed two petitions in the Supreme Court challenging the two earlier declarations of martial law, in both instances, his petitions were denied,” the Palace official said.
“He’s welcome to question this third one and I’m confident that the government can justify martial law anew in the Supreme Court,” Roque said.
Roque added that even if the one-year extension of martial law is approved by Congress, he assured that “it can be cut short if there is no need for it.”
In his letter dated December 8, President Duterte asked Congress to further extend the declaration of martial law in the whole of Mindanao for the entirety of 2018 to totally eradicate terror threats posed by remnants of Islamic State (IS)-linked terrorists and by communist rebels in the region.
He said extending the martial law for another year will help state security forces to crush the rebellion in Mindanao and ensure public safety.
Duterte highlighted the different threats facing Mindanao, which were part of the security assessment submitted to Malacañang by the AFP and the PNP.
He noted that despite the deaths of almost a thousand IS-inspired extremists, including their leaders, in the battle of Marawi, remnants of the group and their supporters have continued their recruitment and training of new members “to carry on the rebellion.”
“You will please note that at least 185 persons listed in the martial law arrest orders have remained at large and, in all probability, are presently regrouping and consolidating their forces,” he said.
He specifically pointed to the remnants of the IS-inspired Da’awatul Islamiyah Waliyatul Masriq (DIWM) as being active in recruiting and consolidating their forces in Central Mindanao.
“These activities are geared towards the conduct of intensified atrocities and armed public uprisings in support of their objective of establishing the foundation of a global Islamic caliphate and of a Wilayat not only in the Philippines but also in the whole of Southeast Asia,” Duterte said.
The President also cited the terror threat from the Turaifie Group, which has been monitored to be planning to conduct bombings in the Cotabato area.
In the meantime, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a breakaway faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), has been continuously perpetrating violence in Maguindanao and North Cotabato, having initiated a total of 89 violent incidents since the year started.
He also cited threats posed by remnants of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Zamboanga Peninsula.
Duterte alao accused the NPA of taking advantage of the Marawi siege and stepped up terrorist acts against innocent civilians and private entities, as well as guerilla warfare against the security sector and public and government infrastructure.”
He said the NPA’s objective was to “purposely seize political power through violent means and supplant the country’s democratic form of government with Communist rule.”
The President said the NPA has perpetrated at least 385 atrocities in Mindanao since the year started that resulted in the deaths of 41 state forces and the wounding of 62 others.
He said these atrocities also resulted in the deaths of 23 civilians, including a four-month old infant, and the wounding of six others.
In the meantime, at least 59 arson incidents against private business and establishment have been carried out by the NPA in Mindanao this year that resulted in the destruction of an estimated PHP 2.2 billion of properties.
The President said he was constrained to terminate peace talks with the National Democratic front-Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (NDF-CPP-NPA), and later on to tag the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization as a direct result of the said atrocities.
“These recent developments involving the NDF-CPP-NPA forebode another year of intensified armed hostilities which, together with other security concerns and described above, continue to make Mindanao the hotbed of rebellion,” he said.
“For all these reasons, I ask the Congress of the Philippines to further extend the proclamation of Martial Law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao for a period of one year, from 01 January 2018 to 31 December 2018, or for such period of time as the Congress may determine, in accordance with Section 18, Article VII of the 1987 Philippine Constitution,” Duterte said in his letter. (PNA)