Press Release
December 13, 2017


SEN PANGILINAN: Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, we are here today in fulfillment of a constitutional duty to pass upon the extension of martial law in Mindanao. Narito tayo dahil ito ang sinasabi ng ating Saligang Batas. We are upholding and respecting the rule of law and the Constitution by convening today. Therefore, the question is, is the martial law extension consistent with the Constitution?

Our acts must be consistent with law and the Constitution. This is what distinguishes us from terrorists, criminals, or rebels, whom we seek to defeat for they have no regard for our Constitution or our laws. They have no respect for the rule of law. And I say, Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, we cannot, in exercising these martial law powers, or passing upon these martial law powers, go beyond what the Constitution dictates, where our laws prescribe. Otherwise, we will be in danger of becoming the monsters that we seek to defeat, those who have no regard for law, order, or respect for the constitution. My question therefore is, and this is directed to whoever who would like to answer in the panel:

Do you agree with us with this position that martial law is an extreme measure and must not be exercised whimsically or arbitrarily?

USEC MENARDO GUEVARRA: Yes, of course Mr. Senator. We agree.

Would you agree that it is an extraordinary measure resorted to only when the same is necessary?

USEC GUEVARRA: Under the conditions set forth in the Constitution, yes sir. Existence of rebellion and public safety requires it.

SFNP: Yes. Section 18, Article 7 precisely provides when these powers can be exercised. And if we are to look at the long history of our challenges to national security and insurgency and rebellion, Mr. President.

In the year 2000 March, MILF rebels numbering 700 attacked 9 army camps, raided Kauswagan town hall, held 400 civilians hostages resulting in 36 people killed and 160,000 displaced persons. Martial law was not declared then.

In 2001 November, in Sulu and Zamboanga, some 200 MNLF fighters launched mortar attacks on military camps in Sulu. Over 160 people were killed. Martial law was not declared.

In 2008 August, Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, North Cotabato. 1,500 MILF rebels led by Umbrakato and Commander Bravo occupied 20 barangays and several towns: burning homes, looting farms, displacing 280,000 people. At least 40 people were killed. Martial law was not declared.

In 2012, if I'm not mistaken, the Zamboanga siege. Hundreds were displaced. Three weeks of fighting the MNLF rebels, martial law was not declared.

In all instances, precisely because martial law is an extreme measure that cannot be imposed by whim, and must be imposed strictly under the tenets of our constitution.

Which brings me to the question: earlier, no more combat operation in Marawi. During the siege of Marawi, this Congress approved martial law in Mindanao extended for five months. [TIME] How do we explain now that Marawi siege is over. I guess it was stressed earlier, but I'd like to press the point. We provided for a 6 months martial law in Mindanao while the fighting was taking place. While the siege is ongoing. Martial law was upheld by the Supreme Court in recognition precisely of this situation then.

Today, there is no longer any siege. Today, no more combat operations in Marawi. Yes, there are operations elsewhere. But why are we asking for one year extension? Why not six months? Why one year. When martial law is an extraordinary measure as admitted by our resource persons.

It's no longer extraordinary. It has become a norm if we are to allow this one year extension, Mr President.

ES MEDIALDEA: Sir, we cannot, Mr. President, answer for the judgment call of the presidents at that time. We now have a different kind of President who has the political will to answer for the consequences of his decisions. We cannot make any comparison on the basis of the 2000, 2003, 2004 situation. What we have in hand is the 2017 situation.

SFNP: Yes, we understand that Mr. President. Except that the point is that, martial law must be recognized as an extreme measure. We would like to be clarified: is an extension of one year precisely in recognition of the extreme situation we're in, while in fact the Marawi siege is over?

I would like to think if the Marawi siege is continuing, then perhaps there is basis to extend. And maybe basis to extend for six months. Perhaps. In arguendo. But there is no longer any siege. And yet here we are, proposing for a one year and perhaps accommodating a one year extension. I just don't see the logic and I'd like to be clarified

It would have been a very different situation altogether if the fighting was still ongoing. If there is still that siege. Then we can see that the situation is extreme and therefore we can proceed with an extension.

SEC LORENZANA: Mr. President, can I reply to the Senator? Sir, maybe your perception here is not as far as what's happening on the ground, that the troops report otherwise. Wala na sigurong bakbakan diyan sa Marawi but there are still clashes almost every day in other parts of Mindanao. The clash with the BIFF in Central Mindanao continues almost every day. Yung mga engkwentro din sa ibang mga lugar sa Eastern Mindanao with the CPP-NPA ay nandon pa rin. Basilan, Jolo ay ongoing pa rin yan. That's why ang pagkakaintindi po namin nung rebellion ay this is a continuing act not only in one area but it could spill over to other areas which the Supreme Court has already validated in its decision that the trouble in Marawi has spilled over in other parts of Mindanao.

SFNP: I agree that the Supreme Court upheld the martial law declaration then. We also have to take into consideration that there was an ongoing siege then. This is not the case now. And therefore we have doubt as to the constitutionality of an extension of martial law for one year given that actual rebellion, as was the case perhaps six months ago, is no longer attended now.

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