Duterte seeks mar­tial law ex­ten­sion in south

Crit­ics warn that coun­try edg­ing to­wards dic­ta­tor­ship

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte plans to ex­tend mar­tial law in the south­ern Philip­pines to de­feat Is­lamist mil­i­tants who have seized a ma­jor city, his ad­min­is­tra­tion said yes­ter­day, as crit­ics warned the coun­try could be edg­ing to­wards a dic­ta­tor­ship. Duterte had im­posed mil­i­tary rule for 60 days in the Min­danao re­gion, home to 20 mil­lion peo­ple, af­ter gun­men wav­ing black Is­lamic State flags oc­cu­pied Marawi city on May 23, trig­ger­ing clashes that have killed more than 550 peo­ple.

While the mil­i­tary said at least 60 mil­i­tants con­tin­ued to hold out against gov­ern­ment forces nearly two months later, crit­ics ex­pressed sur­prise by Duterte’s re­quest for a mar­tial law ex­ten­sion un­til De­cem­ber 31. “I have come to the con­clu­sion that the ex­ist­ing re­bel­lion in Min­danao which has prompted me to is­sue (the mar­tial law procla­ma­tion), will not be quelled com­pletely by 22nd July 2017,” Duterte said in a let­ter to Congress.

Congress is to con­vene Satur­day to dis­cuss an ex­ten­sion af­ter Duterte met with its lead­ers late Mon­day, pres­i­den­tial spokesman Ernesto Abella told re­porters. The pres­i­dent also asked Congress to sus­pend a con­sti­tu­tional safe­guard against war­rant­less ar­rests. “This is not only a step back, but sev­eral steps back for our democ­racy,” op­po­si­tion law­maker and prom­i­nent mar­tial law critic Ed­cel Lag­man told AFP, call­ing Duterte’s re­quest il­le­gal.

Lag­man and Se­na­tor An­to­nio Tril­lanes, a fel­low critic, also warned of a po­ten­tial re­peat of hu­man rights abuses un­der the late dic­ta­tor Fer­di­nand Mar­cos, whose 20year rule was ended by a blood­less pop­u­lar re­volt in 1986. Tril­lanes, a re­tired naval of­fi­cer, also ac­cused Duterte of us­ing mar­tial rule as preparation for in­stalling a rev­o­lu­tion­ary gov­ern­ment that would al­low him to stay in of­fice be­yond his six-year elec­toral man­date. “Once he feels that there is not enough op­po­si­tion to a na­tion­wide mar­tial law dec­la­ra­tion, he will go for it,” Tril­lanes told AFP. The coun­try’s con­sti­tu­tion al­lows the pres­i­dent to im­pose mar­tial law for up to 60 days, as well as al­low­ing au­thor­i­ties to de­tain sus­pects for up to three days without charges to sup­press in­va­sion or re­bel­lion. Be­yond two months, the pres­i­dent can ex­tend it “for a pe­riod to be de­ter­mined by the Congress”.

‘Ex­tra­or­di­nary mea­sure’

But Duterte’s al­lies dom­i­nate Congress, and House Speaker Pan­ta­leon Al­varez said yes­ter­day he saw no ob­sta­cle to ap­prov­ing an ex­ten­sion. Duterte had ini­tially con­sulted the mil­i­tary and po­lice on ex­tend­ing mar­tial rule. His spokesman would not say if the plan to ex­tend by five months was their idea. In May, Duterte said he had made the move to stamp out an at­tempt by mil­i­tants, in­clud­ing for­eign fighters, to es­tab­lish an IS caliphate on Philip­pine ter­ri­tory. — AFP

MANILA: Pro­test­ers hold plac­ards to protest the ex­ten­sion of mar­tial law on Min­danao is­land in south­ern Philip­pines. —AP

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