MANILA, Philippines – Amid the overwhelming support that President Rodrigo Duterte received from his allies in Congress, lawmaker-critics of the chief executive stood firm in their opposition to his declaration of martial law in Mindanao to solve the crisis in Marawi.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said there was no “credible factual basis” for Duterte’s proclamation, adding that Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had reiterated in his briefing with members of the House of Representatives that “he did not recommend to President Rodrigo Duterte the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.”
The May 31 briefing was for all House members, who received inputs from Lorenzana and other Cabinet officials and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor Mujiv Hataman about Duterte’s May 23 declaration of martial law.
According to Lagman, Lorenzana told lawmakers during the briefing that “there was no prior consultation by the President with his officials entourage in Russia before the imposition of martial law.”
“The military establishment also admitted that what precipitated the ongoing armed conflict in Marawi was the military operation to neutralize or capture Isnilon Japilon, a high profile terrorist leader,” Lagman added.
On Tuesday, the Senate minority bloc also disclosed that government security officials including Lorenzana during a May 29 separate briefing for the members of the Upper House admitted that they did not recommend the declaration of martial law to Duterte.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon quoted Lorenzana as telling senators that the military could end the problem with the Maute rebels even without martial law.
On Wednesday, after emerging from the martial law briefing for House members, Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin said, “The executive seems to have no coherence as to a holistic assessment of what necessitated the declaration of martial law.”
“Some questions made were vaguely answered or not clear as to allay fears on martial law,” added Villarin.
Meanwhile, Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano expressed fears that pronouncements that martial law would also allow security forces to go after other groups such as the Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters could be laying the ground for extending military rule.
“Iyon nga ang sinabi natin na noon pa man ang direction ng Pangulo ay magde-declare ng martial law at naghahanap lang siya ng kadahilanan,” he said.
[This is what we said that even before, the President’s direction was towards declaring martial law and he was just looking for a reason to declare it.]
“Kung ganoon ang basehan ng pag-declare ng martial law [If that is the basis for declaring martial law], you cannot solve that in 60 days, even throughout the term of the President, you won’t be able to address the problem and considering the fact that the basis are existing also in other parts of the country,” Alejano added.
But the criticisms in Congress against Duterte’s martial law were drowned on Wednesday by the passage of Resolution 1050 by the House super majority, expressing full support for the President’s decision to place Mindanao under military rule.
The resolution said “it finds no reason to revoke Proclamation No. 216 entitled “Declaring a state of martial law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao.”
The resolution was approved after the House convened into a committee of the whole, with all members sitting, for a briefing with members of the Executive department and security and defense officials, on the proclamation.
“During the said briefing and after interpellation, the members of the House of Representatives determined the sufficiency of the factual basis for the issuance of Proclamation No. 216,” the resolution said.