WATCH | Congress approves 1 more year of martial law in Mindanao

The joint session of Congress during the deliberations on extending martial law. (News5)

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE, 3:45PM) Congress voted to approve on Wednesday, December 13, President Rodrigo Duterte’s request to extend martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao for another year, from January 1 to December 31, 2018.

The vote for the resolution extending martial law was 240 for and 27 against, with no abstention.

Joint voting is mandated by the Constitution, which vests on Congress the power to approve or revoke the extension of martial law beyond 60 days.

Section 18 states: “Upon the initiative of the President, the Congress may, in the same manner, extend such proclamation or suspension for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.”

On July 22, when Congress for the first time extended martial law up to December 31, 2017, the vote was 261-18.

By chamber, the Senate voted 14-4 for the extension, the House of Representatives, 226-23.

The senators who voted against martial law’s extension are Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, Senator Bam Aquino, Senator Francis Pangilinan and Senator Risa Hontiveros.

After Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez announced the results of the House vote, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III asked if another round of voting could be called to accommodate Senators Francis Escudero and Cynthia Villar but this was opposed by Minority Leader Franklin Drilon.

Sotto did not insist but said the two senators “would have voted Yes anyway.”

Duterte originally declared Mindanao under martial law on May 23 when fighting broke out between government forces and extremists who had pledged loyalty to the Islamic State and in late July, asked and got Congress to extend it the first time.

In late October, the government declared Marawi “liberated.”

Despite this, early this month, the military and police recommended the extension of martial law to quell threats from not only extremists who survived Marawi and who are allegedly regrouping for more attacks, but also the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the Abu Sayyaf, and communist rebels.

Critics say the extension is unconstitutional because, among others, the government already declared Marawi liberated, thus there is no longer actual “lawless violence, invasion or rebellion” as laid down in the Charter.


Meanwhile, Malacañang Palace welcomed the Congress’ vote of approval for the year-long extension of martial law and urged citizens “to stand behind the Administration and rally behind our defenders to quell the continuing rebellion in Mindanao” and eradicate various “terrorist” groups, including communist rebels who were tagged by the President last week as a terrorist organization, but have yet to be so designated by the courts.

A statement by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said:

“We welcome the approval of both houses of Congress to extend the proclamation of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao beginning January 1, 2018 until December 31, 2018.

“Public safety is our primordial concern; thus, we ask the public to stand behind the Administration and rally behind our defenders to quell the continuing rebellion in Mindanao; eradicate the DAESH-inspired Da’awatul Islamiyah Waliyatul Masriq (DIWM) and other like-minded local/ foreign terrorist groups and armed lawless groups, and the communist terrorists and their coddlers, supporters and financiers; and ensure the unhampered rehabilitation of war-torn Marawi and the lives of its residents.

“This is everyone’s shared responsibility. Together, we will prevail.”