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Congress extends martial law
An overwhelming majority of the Senate and House of Representatives in joint session on Wednesday voted to extend martial law in Mindanao until December 31, 2018.
The two houses of Congress voted separately on Resolution of Both Houses 13, which called for the further extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao for another year.
A total of 240 lawmakers present voted in favor of the request of President Rodrigo Duterte, while 27 voted against it.
In the Senate, 14 members of the majority bloc backed Duterte's proposal while four members of the minority bloc rejected it.
Among those who voted to grant Duterte's request were Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd, as well as Senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Nancy Binay, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Sherwin Gatchalian, Richard Gordon, Gregorio Honasan 2nd, Panfilo Lacson, Loren Legarda, Grace Poe, Joel Villanueva and Juan Miguel Zubiri.
Those who opposed the extension were Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Paolo Benigno Aquino 3rd, Risa Hontiveros and Francis Pangilinan.
In the House, 226 lawmakers voted in the affirmative while 23 voted against.
The President in his letter sent to Congress said the extension of martial law in the whole of Mindanao was recommended by security officials in an effort to ensure the eradication of terrorist groups, armed lawless groups and communist terrorists.
Duterte first imposed martial law in Mindanao last in May 23 though Proclamation 216 following the attack in Marawi City by the Islamic State-inspired Maute group.
In July, a special joint session was convened by Congress to approve the request of the President to extend martial law in Mindanao until December 31, 2017.
'Terrorists remain a threat'
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea told lawmakers during the joint session that despite the defeat of Maute group and the death of Isnilon Hapilon, terrorist groups remain a threat in Mindanao.
According to him, remnants of Da'watul Islamiyah Wallyatul Masriq group continued with the recruitment and training of new members and fighters in preparation for a new wave of attacks.
Medialdea also told lawmakers security forces were able to monitor a group planning to launch bombings in Cotabato province.
The continuous acts of lawless violence by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Maguindanao and North Cotabato and the Abu Sayyaf Group in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi were also among the reason cited for a prolonged martial law.
Medialdea said the communist New People's Army carried out 385 atrocities in Mindanao, which resulted in the deaths of 41 government troops and 23 civilians and the destruction of at least P2.2 billion worth of properties.
"It was these atrocities that compelled the President to declare the NDF-CPP-NPA [National Democratic Front-Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army] as terrorist organization," he said.
DND, AFP thank Congress
The Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) welcomed on Wednesday the one-year extension of martial law in Mindanao granted by Congress.
In a statement, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the extension of martial law would pave the way for an "unhampered" rehabilitation efforts of the government in the war-torn city of Marawi.
"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 (Islamic State) 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 said.
Col. Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesman, said in a separate statement that the extension was an "acknowledgement" of the grounds cited by the military in its recommendation submitted to the President.
"Specifically, we need to quell the ongoing rebellion in Mindanao and prevent its spread to other parts of the country," Arevalo noted.
[Source: By Jefferson Antiporda, The Manila Times, Manila, 17Dec17]
Islamic paramilitary organizations
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