September 21, 2017, 8:12 pm
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Five years?

WITHOUT President Duterte asking for it – at least not publicly –  Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez announced that if he had his way, he would have martial law in Mindanao extended for five years, or until 2022, the end of Duterte’s term.

The suggestion is so absurd that even Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, said this is too long an extension. By the way, the Constitution mandates the martial law proclamation is good only for 60 days, and will lapse on July 22, until Congress votes for its extension.

Duterte himself said he will lift martial law if the defense department advises him so.

Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the military would submit a recommendation after finishing its assessment of the situation in Marawi City. Padilla said five years “may be too long.”

His colleagues in the House of Representatives have shot down Alvarez’s suggestion, with Rep. Harry Roque providing for a reasonable argument why he opposed it. Even Senate President Koko Pimentel is against the proposed lengthy extension.

Rep. Roque said, “Martial law, even if warranted, even if there is factual basis for it, is never good for the country. It is an admission to the entire world that there is rebellion or invasion in the Philippines.” He added that this is never good for business, for tourism, and for our international reputation.

Rep. Rozzano Biazon supported this view, saying a lengthy extension “will give the impression that we are unable to contain the situation using normal powers of government.”

While the extension of Proclamation 216 might be considered as a done deal, with the preponderance of Duterte allies in both houses of Congress likely to support it, it is easy to see why there is serious opposition to a lengthy extension of martial law.

The Filipino nation is still wary of the Marcos dictatorship that lasted for two decades, many of these years under martial law. This apprehension is very much evident in the present Constitution which was ratified under President Cory Aquino.

If Duterte can quell the religious-based rebellion in Marawi with the least use of martial law powers, just as he vowed he could do, then we might as well extend the emergency to the barest minimum.

After all, the military spokesmen say every day that passes means the government is getting nearer and nearer to clearing the whole of Marawi from Islamist rebels.
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