Congress set for special session on martial law extension

By Audrey Morallo 09_alvarez-farinas.jpgHouse Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said on Monday that President Rodrigo Duterte would call a special session of the Congress to consider martial law extension. File

MANILA, Philippines — Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said on Monday that President Rodrigo Duterte would call Congress to a special session on Saturday to consider the extension of army rule in Mindanao.

Duterte is mulling an extension of martial law in Mindanao, which is set to lapse on July 23, as Philippine security forces continue to battle Islamist militants still entrenched in Marawi City.

In an advisory to reporters, Fariñas said "the president will call the Congress to a Special Session on Saturday, Jul 22, 2017, at 9am, to consider the extension of Martial Law.” 

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III also told reporters that a special session would be called on Saturday.

Duterte placed the island of Mindanao under martial law on May 23 after an attempt by security forces to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, an Abu Sayyaf subleader and the appointed emir of ISIS in the region, was met by heavy resistance from rebels.

The ensuing firefight spiraled out of control and quickly turned into the most serious security problem Duterte has faced in his young presidency.

Recommendations from security sector

Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella on Monday said the Defense department submitted its recommendation on whether or not to extend martial law last Thursday.

“The president will go through and will make a decision on the matter,” Abella said without giving details on how Duterte might decide.

“As we all know, the president listens and he considers the position not only of the military and of the police but also the interests of vital stakeholders,” he said.

Duterte is expected to act on the recommendation of defense officials on or before the martial law proclamation lapses.

“I am not on the ground to assess everything…I rely on what is reported to me by the different departments, particularly the Armed Forces and the DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government), which has the bureau of police,” Duterte has said.

Philippine National Police chief Ronald Dela Rosa said on Monday that he had recommended the extension of military rule in Mindanao.

Dela Rosa said that he had submitted PNP’s position to the president last week.

“Meron kaming position paper na isinubmit last Friday expressing our stand on extending the martial law, pero hindi pa namin inilagay ang period up to when,” the PNP chief said.

Dela Rosa also indicated that he would use army rule on the island of 22 million people to catch politicians involved in the trade of illegal drugs. This however was not one of the bases stipulated in the Constitution for the declaration of army rule.

Aside from the PNP, the military has also submitted its position paper on the possible extension of martial law in Mindanao. It has not however divulged its position to the public. — with Alexis Romero

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