Press Release
December 13, 2017

*Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros' explanation on why she voted No to extend Martial Law in Mindanao

Mr. Senate President, six months ago, I voted No to President Rodrigo Duterte's request to Congress to extend the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao.

I voted No because President Duterte failed to provide any evidence that Martial Law offers any distinct strategic advantage to our soldiers in their fight against the Maute terrorists. It brought no added military, logistical and legal value to the government's campaign against terrorism.

Today, the President is again requesting Congress to extend the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao using the same arguments, only this time, he included the so-called threat of the New People's Army (NPA) as one of the key reasons.

Kailangan ba ang Martial Law para tugunan ang diumanong banta ng New People's Army (NPA)? Why would the government use Martial Law against an armed non-state group which it itself described as a "spent force"?

Mr. President, Martial Law will not address the NPA's abuses. Quite the opposite, Martial Law will only revive a spent force.

I'm also shocked that the Executive today said that "public safety is an abstract idea" and "Martial Law is a flexible concept" which allows the President to do flexible things like suppress freedom of assembly, etc.

This is more than appalling -- this is exactly the kind of thinking that plunged our country into darkness decades ago, and this is the kind of thinking that the present Constitution seeks to correct. May I remind the Executive of Section 18, Article VII of the Constitution stating that "a state of martial law does NOT suspend the operation of the Constitution". The bill of rights is still in force.

I understand the need to address the unwarranted violence of armed non-state actors, particularly the abuses of the NPA against unarmed civilians and military personnel. My party, Akbayan, and I are not unfamiliar with them. Many of my party leaders have been included in the NPA's hit-list, harassed and even murdered for the simple reason that we hold a different ideological point of view from them. I know the desperation of the public longing for peace and security.

But Martial Law is not the solution. It is not a silver bullet or a quick fix for all of our social ills. It will not bring us nearer to peace.

What is needed is for the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) to fully implement the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). Si Secretary Lorenzana na mismo ang umamin kanina na noong panahon ng peace talks, nagkaroon ng deescalation ng violence.

I challenge both President Rodrigo Duterte and the leaders of the CPP-NPA to choose peace. Sobra na ang karahasan at pagdanak ng dugo sa ating lansangan buhat ng araw-araw na patayan at kaso ng extrajudicial killings, huwag na nilang dagdagan pa.

It is true that Martial Law is enshrined in our constitution. However, it must be exercised only in the most exigent of circumstances as a last resort, and by a government that would wield it judiciously.

Imposing Martial Law every time there is a skirmish, or to create an illusory psychological effect, defeats the Constitutional principle that "civilian authority is at all times supreme over the military".

And in the hands of a government that thinks that Martial Law is flexible and public safety is an abstract concept, it can only be asking for trouble.

For these reasons, I vote No to once again extend the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao.

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