PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte vowed the “total eradication” of Islamic State-insipired terrorists and communist rebels, including their coddlers, supporters and financiers should Congress heed his request to extend beyond Dec. 31 martial law in Mindanao for one more year .
Citing the continued threat of terrorism and rebellion in the region, which makes Mindanao “the hotbed of rebellion, Duterte stressed Monday the need for a one-year extension of martial law to “ensure total eradication of DAESH-inspired Da’awatul Islamiyah Waliyatul Masriq, other like-minded Local/Foreign Terrorist Groups and Armed Lawless Groups, and the communist terrorists as well as their coddlers, supporters, and financiers.”
“Public safety indubitably requires such further extension, not only for the sake of security and public order, but more importantly to enable the government and the people of Mindanao to pursue the bigger task of rehabilitation and the promotion of a stable socioeconomic growth and development,” Duterte said in his letter dated Dec. 8 to Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
Remnants of Da’awatul Islamiyah and their allies have been monitored towards continuing with their plan to build a “wilayat” or province for the Islamic State in Southeast Asia—activities including recruitment and reorganization in Central Mindanao, particularly in Maguindanao and North Cotabato as well as Sulu and Basilan, Duterte said.
The President referred to continuing threats posed by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and Abu Sayyaf group carrying out acts of terrorism in various parts of the island.
In related developments:
• Congress will convene into a joint session tomorrow to approve Duterte’s request to extend martial law in Mindanao for another year, House Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas said on Monday.
Fariñas said Congress would not hold a special session during the Christmas holiday break.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said the House leadership would support the President all the way.
“We support the President’s desire to extend martial law in Mindanao to bring peace in Mindanao—’the hotbed of terrorism’ as described by the President,” Alvarez said.
• Two opposition lawmakers, meanwhile, opposed the Palace’s declaration for martial law extension, saying this violated the Constitution.
“Where is the actual invasion or actual rebellion in Mindanao? The Constitution provides that martial law can only be declared and its extension authorized in case of invasion or rebellion when public safety requires it,” Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said, echoing the sentiments of party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate.
“Since the original or initiatory declaration of martial law is limited to not more than 60 days, it stands to reason that any extension is subject to the same constraints with respect to duration and grounds,” Lagman added.
• Former solicitor general Florin Hilbay, in an interview with ANC News, said there was no legal basis for an extension of martial law in Mindanao as mandated by the 1987 Constitution.
Hilbay stressed the Constitution was very clear on the basis for the President’s declaration of martial law, either an actual invasion or rebellion and when the public safety required it. With AFP, Maricel V. Cruz, Rey E. Requejo and Macon Ramos-Araneta
While President Duterte will likely get congressional support for his request for a one-year extension of martial law in the region, the former chief state lawyer pointed out that political support was different from complying with the provisions of the Constitution.
“There is no such thing as preventive martial law. Political support for martial law is different from constitutional compliance,” Hilbay said.
• Senate President Aquilino Pimentel said security officials would hold a briefing for senators today to justify the recommendation to extend martial law.
The 10 a.m. security briefing, according to Pimentel, would be led by martial law administrator Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
He said separate briefing would be comducted by the Commission on Human Rights and the National Economic and Development Authority by noon, he said.
Pimentel, also president of the ruling PDP-Laban, said he favored extending martial law.
Duterte expressed concern over Esmail Sheikh Abdulmalik alias Abu Turaifie, a breakaway leader of the BIFF seen as the new successor to Isnilon Hapilon as the ISIS Emir in Southeast Asia, after his group was “monitored to be planning to conduct bombings, notably targeting the Cotabato area.”
At least 185 persons listed in the Martial Law Arrest Orders have remained at-large and, in all probability, are regrouping and consolidating their forces, Duterte claimed.
He also accused the communist New People’s Army of taking advantage of the already-violent situation in Mindanao by doing “terrorist acts” against innocent civilians and private entities.
At he same time, Duterte said the communists were conducting guerrilla warfare against the security sector and public and government infrastructure, “purposely to seize political power through violent means and supplant the country’s democratic form of government with Communist rule.”
Duterte issued Proclamation 360 on Nov. 23 declaring the termination of peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front-Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army effective immediately and Proclamation 374 on Dec. 5 declaring the CPP-NPA as a “designated/identified terrorist organization” under the Human Security Act of 2007.
In a news briefing, Palace Spokesman Harry Roque insisted terrorist groups were still in the business of committing acts of rebellion in Mindanao, as he stressed that the one-year implementation of martial law “will be cut short if there is no need for it.”
“We need to ensure that they [terrorists] no longer present a threat, that all acts of rebellion emanating from them have ceased and that they are not in a position to endanger public safety,” he said.
He also justified the inclusion of communist rebels in extending martial law in Mindanao, saying there had been intensified fighting between troops and the New People’s Army guerrillas since Duterte declared them as terrorists.
Responding to criticisms that there is no legal justification to Duterte’s extension call, Roque said they would welcome any move to question them before the Supreme Court.
In less than 24 hours during his trip to Moscow, Russia, the President on May 23 placed the entire island of Mindanao under martial law after the ISIS-inspired Maute group laid siege in Marawi City, the capital of Lanao del Sur.
The initial declaration was supposed to end after 60 days, but Congress, in joint session last July 22, approved his request to extend it until the end of this year.
Congress will be going on a Christmas break on Dec. 15, and will resume sessions on January 15 next year.
Last October 17, Duterte declared Marawi City free from terrorists after security forces were able to neutralize terrorist leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute.
Recently, the Supreme Court, in a 10-3-1 vote, affirmed the constitutionality of Duterte’s order to place Mindanao under martial law.
According to Article VII, Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution, the President as Commander in Chief can place the Philippines or any part of it under martial law or suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus “in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it.”
The President must submit a report to Congress in person or in writing within 48 hours of the proclamation of martial law.
Congress, in turn, voting jointly, by at least a majority of all its members in regular or special session, may revoke the proclamation, and the President may not set aside the revocation. With AFP, Maricel V. Cruz, Rey E. Requejo and Macon Ramos-Araneta