Cebu lawmakers back extension of Mindanao-wide martial law

Cebu lawmakers back extension of Mindanao-wide martial law

Cebu lawmakers back extension of Mindanao-wide martial law

In a special session held today at Batasan Pambansang Complex, Quezon City, the Congress of the Philippines - which includes the House of Representatives and the Senate - approved a five-month extension of President Rodrigo Duterte's martial law in Mindanao.

On May 23, Duterte declared martial law on the whole island of Mindanao amid growing armed offensives carried out by the Maute group, one of the Islamist militant groups operating in the region.

Sixteen senators voted yes for the extension of martial law, while four voted against it; 255 members of the House of Representatives, meanwhile, voted in the affirmative, with 14 voting in the negative.

Ahead of the voting, security officials told members of parliament that martial law was needed to stabilise a region where ISIL (also known as ISIS) group fighters was gaining influence, and supporters could be inspired to stage uprisings in areas on Mindanao, joined by foreign fighters.

Duterte's request came amid the long-drawn conflict between government troops and Islamic State-linked terrorists in Marawi City.

According to the 1987 Constitution, Congress should vote jointly in a special session to determine the period of extension of martial law, but only upon the initiative of the President.

Some opponents argue government forces could deal with the attack in Marawi, a centre of Islamic faith in the south, without resorting to martial law. Mr. Alvarez pointed out that even if the Marawi crisis ended, there was still the lingering threat of retaliatory violence from the Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups, which laid siege to Marawi while backed by fighters from Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

"Martial law in Mindanao involves both risk and opportunity but we can manage both", Honasan said.

"What the subalterns of the president has shown to us is some sort of a basis, but the Constitution calls for sufficiency of factual basis", he said.

In a statement, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said: "The rebellion in Marawi continues to persist and we want to stop the spread of the evil ideology of terrorism and free the people of Mindanao from the tyranny of lawlessness and violent extremism".

For the two chambers, the total votes cast in favour of the extension stood at 261 compared to 18 against, which indicated the huge numerical superiority that Duterte allies enjoy in the House and the Senate.

Of the 279 ordered to be arrested after the imposition of martial law, he said only 12 have so far been "neutralized" and the others continue to pose danger to the security and public safety of people in Mindanao.

"Absent any plausible explanation, I can only reach one conclusion: Martial law has no strategic contribution to the military's antiterrorism operations in Marawi", she said.

The deliberation was briefly marred by protesters who managed to slip into the session hall. This is not the martial law that we had before.

Authorities say the intense fighting has left 413 militants, 98 members of security forces and 45 civilians dead while almost half a million residents have been displaced in Marawi and outlying towns.

Rodrigo Duterte claimed that the army had need of the martial law in order to rebuild the city of Marawi and ensure that the war remains contained to this area.

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