MPs back Duterte's bid to extend Mindanao martial law

Protesters display placards during a rally outside Camp Aguinaldo the general headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to protest the extension of Martial Law in the whole of Mindanao island in the southern Philippines as proposed by Presiden

The Philippines Congress voted overwhelmingly in favor of extending martial law on the island of Mindanao Saturday as the battle against IS-affiliated fighters continues.

Present were PRRD's cabinet members Secretary of National Defense Secretary and martial law administrator Delfin N. Lorenzana, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Eduardo M. Ano, National Security Adviser Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr. and Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea. They were immediately ushered out by security officers.

Under the 1987 constitution, the President is allowed to place the country under martial law, but for no more than two months.

The initial period of martial law, which began on May 23, was due to expire Saturday evening, but strongman President Rodrigo Duterte submitted a written request to Congress to hold an extraordinary vote.

He added that granting the five month period will prevent Congress from checking on the conditions of martial law implementation and determine whether or not the conditions in Marawi City and Mindanao still require military action.

Protesters outside the joint session of Congress today.

In total, 261 lawmakers voted in favor of the extension, with 18 voting not in favor.

"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", presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.

"We don't have (any) categorical statement to say that there are no human rights violations because your honor numerous people have left their homes. but time has been coming, we've been receiving more and more complaints (and) we are already receiving reports from NGOs. that we are now validating", Mr.

Samira Gutoc-Tomawis, a former member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commisision who was invited to the session to speak of her experiences during the Mindanao martial law, said that several human rights abuses happened in Mindanao. This is not the martial law that we had before. And analysts say he appears to be using the Marawi crisis as an excuse to impose authoritarian rule in the Philippines, one of Asia's most freewheeling democracies, which in 1986 toppled the two-decade rule of the strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

With the debate over the extension done with, Abella urged the public to help in nation-building and contribute to the attainment of the "full promise of Mindanao".

He also said that of the 600 militants known to be fighting in Marawi, about 220 or so were still entrenched in four neighborhoods in the central business district of the city.

In a letter to Congress last week, Duterte stressed the need to extend martial until December 31, 2017, saying terror threat continues to hang over the Mindanao and that more time is needed to crush the terror network that plans to establish a caliphate in that region.

"There is much work to be done in the recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi".

Marawi was taken over on May 23 by insurgents from the Abu Sayyaf and Maute militant groups who were backed by foreign fighters.

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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