PHILIPPINE lawmakers on Saturday voted to extend martial law on the southern island of Mindanao until the end of the year, giving President Rodrigo Duterte extra time to quell a rebellion by militants allied with the Islamic State group.
A total of 261 legislators agreed to extend military rule in a seven hour-long joint special session of the House of Representatives and the Senate, accounting for more than two-thirds of Congress membership of more than 300.
The overwhelming vote supporting the extension of martial law was not surprising, with Duterte counting a majority of lawmakers and senators as his allies.
Duterte had declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23 after government troops clashed with homegrown terrorists from the Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf Group in Marawi City.
According to Rappler, the 1987 Constitution only allows the President to declare martial law for a maximum of 60 days or until July 22 in this case. Any extension requires approval from both houses of Congress.
As the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police have so far failed to neutralise the rebels, Duterte wrote a letter to Congress asking for an extension until the end of the year, citing the “evolving” urban warfare that is making it difficult for the military and the police to end the fighting in Marawi.
The motion has proven to be controversial, with protesters disrupting the joint session of Congress with chants of “Never again to martial law.”
According to Inquirer.Net, the group were members of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP).
“The NUSP condemns the proposal of Malacañang to extend Martial Law in Mindanao until the end of the year, December 31. The request for extension is only an admission by the government that nothing has been achieved to solve the Marawi crisis in the 60-day span of the Martial Law,” said Mark Vincent Lim, NUSP National Spokesperson in a statement.
“This impending extension will continue to legitimize militarisation and US military presence in Mindanao. It has done nothing but bring about the displacement, disappearances, rape, killings and other human rights violations to our Lumad and Moro brothers and sisters.”
Additional reporting by Reuters