PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Friday insisted that martial law needs to be extended to keep the conflict in Marawi from spilling over to other parts of the country, a day before Congress votes on his request to prolong military rule in Mindanao until the end of the year.
In a chance interview with reporters at Davao City, Duterte said the arrest of top leaders and members of Islamic State-inspired groups has been hampered by Mindanao’s porous boundaries.
Martial law, he said, could contain the spillover, he said.
Duterte reiterated that he will only lift martial law once the IS-inspired groups have been mopped out of Mindanao.
“Well, if there is no more ISIS doing its thing, there is no more rebellion. What am I supposed to do with martial law? I get my salary with or without a martial law. It doesn’t really bother me anymore,” he said.
He also said the five-month extension he was requesting was based on military recommendations.
Earlier, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III on Friday said he sees no issue on how Congress will vote when senators and congressmen meet today in a joint session to tackle Duterte’s request for an extension of martial law in Mindanao to the end of the year.
“We are senators. When the Constitution says voting jointly, then we follow. We are lawmakers, hence we should follow the supreme law,” Pimentel said in response to some questions about how voting will be conducted during the special session.
Senator Panfilo Lacson on Friday noted that no rules have yet been set for the special session, and called on the leaders of both chambers of Congress to address the issue.
“To avoid conflict situations… there must be rules, the rules must be clearly understood and they must be followed,” Lacson said.
Earlier, administration allies Senators Richard Gordon and Joel Villanueva said voting on the martial law issue should be done separately and not jointly. They insisted that the manner of voting should be deliberated.
But Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto and Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III believe that the voting should be done jointly.
Recto said a joint session and voting jointly is mandated by the Constitution. “There’s nothing to debate on. Everyone knows that,” he said.
Sotto said they are bound by the Constitution’s rules on resolving the martial law issue—that should be in a joint session and the lawmakers voting jointly.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said they support the Armed Forces of the Philippines and soldiers who are laying their lives on the line in Marawi City.
But he said the Liberal Party will question the need to extend martial law until the end of the year, which they believe is not justified.
“Likewise, we believe that the coverage of the whole Mindanao cannot be justified under our Constitution,” Drilon said.
LP President Senator Francis Pangilinan said that both the duration and scope of martial law will be debated during the joint special session.
Senator Grace Poe also said the issue of the duration of martial law will be raised and what the administration plans to accomplish during the period of extension.
“I expect a lengthy debate,” Poe said.
Senator Francis Escudero said he expects the debates to focus on the justification and basis of martial law in general and the extent and duration of the extension.
Senator JV Ejercito, a staunch supporter of Duterte said he will not raise any issue because he is convinced of the need to extend martial law.
But opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros insisted on the need for all legislators to be properly briefed of the real and current situation in Marawi and how martial law was implemented in the said area before Congress extends it.
“While I look forward to the joint session that Congress will convene on this matter, the process should not be rushed,” she said.
She emphasized asking for an extension is not just like ordering from Jollibee. “Congress is not a fastfood restaurant.”
She said the public has the right to transparent, thorough and deliberative proceedings within which they can be informed of the factual bases of the declaration of martial law in Mindanao and its possible extension.
On Friday, opposition lawmakers led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman asked the Supreme Court to reverse its decision upholding the constitutionality of Duterte’s martial law declaration.
In the motion for reconsideration, Lagman said the justices abdicated their special jurisdiction to fully review the factual sufficiency of President Duterte’s proclamation of martial law.
Lagman and his other petitioners said they believed there was no actual rebellion in Marawi City and in the rest of Mindanao.
The petitioners described the Court’s ruling as “flawed and tainted” because it weakened its power of judicial review.
They also said the Court accorded the President “undue concessions” by claiming a lack of competence to determine the facts on the ground.
But Solicitor General Jose Calida expressed confidence that the appeal would be denied.
“I see the motion for reconsideration on the martial law decision having two chances: Nil and none,” Calida said.
Earlier, the Supreme Court said it found sufficient factual bases for President Duterte’s proclamation placing the entire Mindanao under martial law. With Rey E. Requejo