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Solons buck plan to extend martial law in Mindanao

edgar erice

Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

Opposition lawmakers have rejected the proposed extension of martial law in Mindanao beyond 2017 despite the liberation of Marawi City from the Maute group, arguing that such an option would be a far cry from normalcy.

“Martial law must be the very last option,” said Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice, a member of the “Magnificent Seven” opposition bloc at the House of Representatives.

“It’s a solution that would have costly side effects on our democratic institutions. It’s a quick fix that would eventually turn out not as the solution to our problems in Mindanao,” he told reporters.

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Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla told a Malacañang press briefing that the military might seek an extension of martial law in Mindanao to allow government forces to eradicate the remaining threats to the region.

Under a presidential proclamation approved by Congress, the imposition of martial law in Mindanao will lapse on Dec. 31.

Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr. also said extending martial law in Mindanao beyond 2017 would not normalize the situation in the strife-torn region.

Not a permanent solution

“Martial law will not normalize the situation. Investments will not come in. Distrust by the Muslims on the administration will persist with military rule,” he said.

Baguilat shared Erice’s view that martial law should not be seen as a permanent solution.

Temporary response

“The military has to understand that martial law is a temporary response to an extraordinary security problem such as rebellion and invasion,” he said.

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He said Congress and the Supreme Court had “bent the rules and trifled with the Constitution” to give President Duterte the mandate to use martial law in repressing the Maute group along with other terrorist groups and Islamic State sympathizers.

“Now that the Maute group has been obliterated, the government should now focus on rehabilitation efforts in Marawi, and social and political reform in Mindanao,” Baguilat said.

Climate of fear

Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin said it has become the Armed Forces’ “habit” to look at martial law as the only solution to terrorism and all peace and order problems.

“It creates a climate of fear and surrender by our people of their freedoms to strongman rule. The Marawi tragedy is now unfortunately being used to justify a sweeping policy approach of containing terrorism and a peace process negotiated under the nozzle of the gun,” he said.

“This creeping authoritarian rule is sapping our democracy and any vestiges of the rule of law. By having unlimited martial law, we cater to the desires of President Duterte to hold power beyond the mandate of our Constitution. Such desires become a clear and present danger to democracy,” Villarin said.

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