By NITZ ARANCON
CAGAYAN de Oro’s two congressmen and another in Misamis Oriental joined the 226 Lower House members in voting for the extension of martial law in Mindanao until year-end 2018.
The three congressmen who voted in favor of the motion to give martial law a second and much longer extension are Reps. Maximo Rodriguez Jr. and Rolando Uy of the 2nd and 1st districts of Cagayan de Oro, respectively, and Pedro Unabia of Misamis Oriental’s 1st District.
Rep. Juliette Uy of the 2nd district of Misamis Oriental failed to attend the joint session of Congress because her 90-year old mother Generosa Navarro-Tiu passed away. (Tiu would be laid to rest at the Oro Gardens on today.)
Rep. Uy voted in favor of the first extension of martial law in July.
A total of 240 members of Congress voted to approve the resolution of both houses calling for martial law extension in Mindanao while only 27 voted against it. There was no abstention.
A total of 14 senators voted in favor of the motion and four were against it while 226 House members approved the motion and 23 rejected it.
Under the Constitution, Congress, voting jointly, has the sole power to extend martial law. A majority vote of the two chambers — or at least 158 members — is needed to pass the motion.
According to Rep. Rodriguez, some 99 percent of Mindanao’s congressional district representatives voted to extend martial law and the suspension of the privilege of writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao to Dec. 31, 2018.
Rodriguez said he voted for the extension because authorities need more time to go after terrorists and other armed groups fighting the government.
“Aron mahatagan gyud sa igong panahon ang atong mga security forces paglakag niining mga da-otang elemento,” he said.
Rodriguez said Congress may opt to take it back even before Dec. 31, 2018 if the Mindanao situation improves.
Pressed to elaborate how this can be done by Congress, Rodriguez said the decision would still come from President Duterte.
He said security officials have been tasked to regularly brief Congress about the peace and order situation in Mindanao “aron atong masayran kon angayan na bang among bawi-on o dili ang one-year extension.”
Another congressman in northern Mindanao, Rep. Frederick Siao of the lone district of Iligan City, also voted in favor of the extension of martial law because many Iliganons approve of military rule based on his “survey.”
“Kini aron plastada ang peace and order,” Siao stressed.
Duterte placed the entire Mindanao under martial law this May 23 after an Islamic State-inspired group laid siege to Marawi City.
Congress, in a special joint session in July, granted the extension of martial law until Dec. 31 this year at Duterte’s request.
In a Dec. 8 letter, Duterte asked Congress to further extend the declaration of martial law in the whole of Mindanao for 2018 to totally eradicate terror threats posed by remnants of IS-linked terrorists and by communist rebels in the region.
He said extending martial law for another year would help state security forces crush the rebellion in Mindanao and ensure public safety.
Lorenzana described Congress’ decision to be an affirmation of trust and confidence.
“The DND is grateful for this affirmation of trust and confidence from our legislators. The Filipino people can rest assured that we will not squander this opportunity to finally end the continuing rebellion and terrorism in Mindanao by destroying the Daesh structure in the area, thwart like-minded groups from conducting further acts of terrorism and prevent the spillover of violence and radicalism in other parts of the country,” he added.
With the extension, he expressed confidence that the government can move forward with unhampered reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi City.
“The challenges we are facing in Mindanao are also challenges to each and every Filipino. Together, as a nation, we will prevail and prove to the world our collective resilience against odds,” Lorenzana said.
Armed Forces public affairs chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said Congress’ decision proved the validity of the military’s grounds for seeking the martial law extension.
“We see the grant of the extension of ML as an acknowledgement of the grounds we have cited that need immediate and decisive actions,” Arevalo said. “Specifically, we need to quell the ongoing rebellion in Mindanao and prevent its spread to other parts of the country. The military will faithfully perform its mandate to protect the people and secure the state.” (with reports from pna)