MANILA, Philippines — The country’s top defense officials arrived at the Senate late Tuesday morning, December 12, to brief lawmakers on the reasons why they believe martial law in Mindanao should be extended.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea accompanied Armed Forces chief of staff General Rey Leonardo Guerrero, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon and Interior Undersecretary Eduard Año, Guerrerro’s predecessor as military chief.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, and Senators Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Risa Hontiveros and Panfilo Lacson were seen arriving for the briefing.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law for 60 days in Mindanao on May 23, soon after fighting broke out between government forces and extremist gunmen, and when this lapsed, sought and got an extension until the end of the year.
However, although the government declared Marawi “liberated” in late October, the military and police recently recommended a yearlong extension.
Duterte has written the Senate and House of Representatives asking for the extension. Aside from remnants of the Marawi gunmen, he has expanded the bases for martial law to include threats from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Abu Sayyaf and communist rebels.
Congress is expected to convene in joint session to decide on the issue.
Drilon conceded that the extension would likely be approved since Duterte controls the majorities in both houses of Congress.
But he stressed that the proper procedures will need to be observed as he vowed that they would register their opposition to the extension because it is unconstitutional, particularly since, he pointed out, there is no armed uprising to justify the move.
While Drilon could not say if the Senate minority would go to the Supreme Court to file a challenge should Congress approve martial law’s extension, he said there are groups who are sure to do so.