Philip­pines to ex­tend mar­tial law

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

MANILAL: The Philip­pine Congress yes­ter­day voted to ex­tend Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte’s dec­la­ra­tion of mar­tial law in the south un­til the end of the year to de­feat Is­lamist gun­men. In a spe­cial joint ses­sion of the House and the Se­nate, leg­is­la­tors over­whelm­ingly backed Duterte’s bid to have mar­tial law re­main in force in the Min­danao re­gion un­til De­cem­ber 31.

The vote came as troops con­tin­ued their two-month long fight to wrest back the south­ern city of Marawi from Is­lamic State-in­spired mil­i­tants. Duterte first de­clared mar­tial law in Min­danao on May 23 shortly af­ter the gun­men, wav­ing the black flags of the IS group, oc­cu­pied parts of Marawi, trig­ger­ing weeks of bloody fight­ing. The vote was largely a fore­gone con­clu­sion as Duterte en­joy ma­jori­ties in both houses of Congress. But op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers dragged out the de­bate, ques­tion­ing why mar­tial law was needed for the whole of Min­danao when the fight­ing was lim­ited to only one city.

“I fear that the plan to ex­tend the mar­tial law in Min­danao will pave the way for a Philip­pines-wide mar­tial law,” said Sen­a­tor Risa Hon­tiveros ahead of the vote. A slide pre­sen­ta­tion ac­com­pa­ny­ing Duterte’s re­quest, seen by AFP, com­pared the Marawi cri­sis to the Is­lamic State takeover of the Iraqi city of Mo­sul. Marawi it­self could now be­come a mag­net for for­eign fighters in Iraq and Syria, it said.

Most of the mil­i­tants’ lead­ers re­main at large, the pre­sen­ta­tion added, while about 90 of the gun­men have slipped past se­cu­rity cor­dons and can link up with other armed groups in the re­gion to mount sim­i­lar widescale at­tacks. At the hear­ing, de­fence and se­cu­rity of­fi­cials jus­ti­fied the ex­tended mar­tial law, say­ing that aside from Marawi, Is­lamist mil­i­tants were plan­ning at­tacks in other parts of Min­danao.

They said al­most a thou­sand pro-IS mil­i­tants, hold­ing 23 hostages, were still ac­tive else­where in the south. In Marawi, the mil­i­tary said only about 60 gun­men were left in a 49-hectare (121-acre) area of Marawi, but Duterte said he needed mar­tial law pow­ers to re­build the city and en­sure the war did not spread else­where.

“I can­not af­ford to be com­pla­cent,” Duterte told re­porters Fri­day, adding the mil­i­tary would be con­duct­ing fur­ther “mop­ping up op­er­a­tions” even af­ter they re­cap­ture Marawi. “If there is a spillage it will not be as bad if you have this stop­gap,” he added. Duterte im­posed 60-day mar­tial rule-the max­i­mum pe­riod al­lowed by the con­sti­tu­tion-over the Min­danao re­gion on May 23 within hours of the gun­men be­gin­ning their ram­page. On Mon­day he asked Congress to ex­tend it un­til the end of the year, along with the con­tin­ued sus­pen­sion of a con­sti­tu­tional safe­guard against war­rant­less ar­rests.

Mar­tial law al­lows the mil­i­tary to es­tab­lish con­trol with mea­sures such as cur­fews, check­points and gun con­trols in a coun­try where civil­ians are au­tho­rized to keep li­censed firearms in their homes. How­ever, any mar­tial law ex­ten­sion must be ap­proved by Congress.

The sub­ject re­mains sen­si­tive in the Philip­pines, decades af­ter the late dic­ta­tor Fer­di­nand Mar­cos put the coun­try un­der mil­i­tary rule for part of his 20-year term. Thou­sands of crit­ics, po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents as well as com­mu­nist guer­ril­las were killed, de­tained or ar­rested dur­ing the pe­riod, ac­cord­ing to his­to­ri­ans. About a dozen pro­test­ers in the gallery in­ter­rupted yes­ter­day’s hear­ing, chant­ing “never again, never again to mar­tial law” be­fore be­ing es­corted out.

Duterte had al­ready beaten back a Supreme Court pe­ti­tion to de­clare mar­tial law in Min­danao il­le­gal. “Once he feels that there is not enough op­po­si­tion to a na­tion­wide mar­tial law dec­la­ra­tion, he will go for it,” Sen­a­tor An­to­nio Tril­lanes told AFP on Tues­day. This is part of a bid to stay in of­fice be­yond his man­dated six years, he warned. Duterte, 72, in­sists he has no plan to stay in of­fice be­yond his term.—AFP


MARAWI: Philip­pine Marines walk past a mosque dur­ing a patrol along a de­serted street at the front­line.

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