Sotto, Ejercito inclined to back ‘limited’ martial law extension

July 5, 2017 - 2:25 PM
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and Senator JV Ejercito. (Senate photos)

MANILA, Philippines — A day after the Supreme Court upheld martial law in Mindanao, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito said Wednesday said they are inclined to support its extension, albeit in a limited version, should the Marawi crisis continue.

President Rodrigo Duterte issued Proclamation No. 216 placing the whole of Mindanao under martial law on May 23, soon after government forces battled extremist gunmen in Marawi City.

While the proclamation invokes the 60-day limit set by the Constitution, Duterte has repeatedly said he might seek to extend martial law beyond that time and to expand its coverage to the Visayas or even the whole country. Although Congress, in a controversial decision, refused to meet in joint session to debate the proclamation, with both chambers merely issuing resolutions supporting martial law, its leaders said they would convene should Duterte seek an extension.

Appearing at the Kapihan sa Senado, Sotto said any extension of martial law, which Duterte can declare on July 23, should be confined only to Lanao del Sur and no longer the whole of Mindanao. At the same time, he stressed that before any extension, the Senate should first be briefed by national security officials on the situation in Marawi.

Ejercito, in a separate press conference, said he is also “inclined” to support extending martial law provided it is “not too long” and the military can “crush the Maute group in the period they are asking for.”

“If they can guarantee that they can finish operations in a month or two we can grant it. I’m inclined to vote for it,” he said.

He claimed he understood the situation of the Maranao, the majority of who, he said, are for martial law, as he wondered why “people from Metro Manila” were against it.

He added he also understood how hard it is for the military to contain and identify the rebels given the terrain of Mindanao.

The senator also said it is important to note that there have been no reports of abuses or atrocities committed by government forces during martial law.