NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental – Martial law was declared in Mindanao on May 23, 2017 in response to the Maute terrorist siege of Marawi City. It was extended for five months or up to Dec. 31, 2017 to finish off the Maute uprising. By October or a month after the siege, Marawi was liberated and not a single Maute combatant was left standing. However, while the Maute guerrillas in the battlefield were wiped out, the Isis-inspired and supported terrorist group was far from being defeated, the reason why the Commander-in-Chief had sought Congress for another extension of military rule for one year.
The official reason for the extension is no longer confined to the actual uprising in Marawi but expanded to “ensure total eradication of Daesh-Inspired Da’awatul Islamiyah Waliyatui Masriq, other like-minded Local/Foreign Terrorist Groups and Armed Lawless Groups, and the communist terrorists and their coddlers, supporters, and financiers.”
Congress on Monday, 11 December 2017, granted the request of the President, thus, martial law will remain imposed and operational in Mindanao up to Dec. 31, 2018.
A constitutional issue is likely to reach the Supreme Court.
Article 7 Section 18 Paragraph 5 of the 1987 Constitution explicitly provides that “Upon the initiative of the President, the Congress may, in the same manner, extend such proclamation or suspension for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.
Martial law was declared in Mindanao on May 23, 2017, because of an actual invasion or rebellion staged by the Maute terrorists in Marawi City. It was constitutionally justified then. Its extension for five months was still legitimate because the battle against the rebels was still raging; the uprising was not effectively suppressed within the two-month constitutionally prescribed duration of martial law.
The parameter of an actual occurring uprising to suppress is absent in the third and longer request for extension. The Marawi siege was long over. The prime justification comes out as a new war objective, not a compelling reason to continue a fight on an ongoing uprising which reads, to repeat – to “ensure total eradication of Daesh-inspired Da’awatul islamiyah Waliyatui Masriq, other like-minded Local/Foreign Terrorist Groups and Armed Lawless Groups, and the communist terrorists and their coddlers, supporters, and financiers.”
Bands of terrorists to include now the NPA are all over Mindanao both in its urban centers and in the countryside. Are we, thus, to expect new Marawi-like wars in some cities in Mindanao where some Moro extremists are embedded, and running battles in the countryside with the Bangsamoro Freedom fighters and the NPA guerrillas, in the Cotabato marshlands and in the Caraga and Davao areas, respectively?
The war may need to soon start to give unquestionable justification for the extended martial law before the Supreme Court could rule on a petition. Considering the expanded target, the war is likely to escalate to Luzon and the Visayas. Certainly, the NPA in these areas will not just be sitting pretty while their comrades in Mindanao are being hunted and liquidated by the security forces of the state. There will be fighting or uprising in various fronts. When this happens, expect another request for extension, this time to expand the coverage of martial law throughout the land. With martial law in place, the cherished revolutionary government is not farfetched.
It looks a brilliant strategy. But some guys might be biting more than what they can chew without even knowing it.
(William R. Adan, Ph.D., is a retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental.)