The Senate and the House of Representatives voted Wednesday to extend martial law in Mindanao until the end of 2019.
In a joint session, both Houses of Congress voted to grant the request of President Duterte to extend martial law because rebellion still existed in Mindanao and that public safety required its continuation.
The President named numerous terror groups that seek to promote global rebellion. Security officials also told lawmakers of a continuing rebellion in Mindanao.
The extension, already the third since it was first imposed in May last year when terrorists invaded Marawi City. It took five months before Marawi was declared free from terrorists, and even then martial law was not immediately lifted.
The extension is greeted in different ways by various sectors, depending on their political affiliation.
Many argue that Mindanaoans are in favor of the extension of martial law because they feel safe and appreciate the need for it.
Others agree with the extension because it is timely given the potential violence that may be brought by the midterm elections in May.
Others, however, feel that this may extend the window for the Commission on Human Rights abuses. In granting Malacañang’s request, both Houses of Congress also extended the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, paving the way for continued warrantless arrests.
The argument that only those in Mindanao would know whether martial law is good or not holds true, even though their perception may be clouded by biases for or against the administration. It is true, as well, that those in other places like Metro Manila may have only a superficial sense of what is good and bad for the region, and whether martial law is truly solving the ills it is meant to solve.
But there are some things that are true whether the observer is in Mindanao, Metro Manila or elsewhere. First, martial law should always be seen as temporary measure and not an end state. If it achieves the goal and has established ways to keep that goal doable, then it should be lifted— and not a day later.
Second, the government must continually assure the people that it is not a recipe for abuse.
Finally, those tasked to implement martial law should always remember that it is the people’s interests they are upholding at all times. Their loyalty must not lie with anybody else.
The Duterte administration has another year to wipe out terror groups and other threats to public safety in Mindanao. Martial law remains a last resort, and a means to an end. It is not the be-all and end-all of peace and order in that part of the country.