Fighting terrorists and extremists in the country’s south requires the extension of martial law in Mindanao to sustain the momentum until government gets back total control of the area.
Third District Rep. Arthur Yap, who joined the majority in voting for the extension of martial law in Mindanao up to December 31, explained this based on the situation brief by representatives of the executive branch of government during the eight-hour joint session of Congress on July 22.
He said Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and national security officials, who appeared during the joint session where the extension of martial law in Mindanao was deliberated, were able to clarify in the eight hours of grilling “how they had been able to use the provisions of martial law to keep the fight going”.
For others there is a grave negative economic impact from it. But for the legislators and the people from Mindanao, it is what they need, according to Yap.
He said his former classmate in law studies, Deputy Speaker Ferdinand Hernandez told him that even if a poll is conducted, it would turn out the congressmen and the people of Mindanao would want it because there are many Islamic terrorists operating there and they are more than what people outside of Mindanao know.
“If we stop now, delikado, because ang momentum naa kanato mao nga kinahanglan ipahuman nato. We have to finish it in its entirety hangtod until the time we finish it,” Yap said.
Many senators and members of the House of Representatives understand there is a need “to send a message to our troops and to Mindanao as well that we do not forget and our focus is still on them”, he added.
“That’s why even if it takes a very controversial martial law, we will keep it in place just to send the message to our frontline troops that our focus is on them until now because we want them to eradicate the problem. Many of the things, I believe [are involved]- -a signal, the moral booster, a psychological matter. But also the suspension of the privilege of habeas corpus has been effective to use to detain many of the combatants on the other side,” Yap added.
What alarmed him, Yap said, was the “testimony of the government panel that we do not know that hundreds of Islamic combatants are converging in Mindanao in the last few months, joining their other brother terrorists in fighting the government in Marawi City and that’s dangerous. If we don’t have the highest level of alert in that area, we are sending the message nga ok ok ra, we will just let things go. But we cannot just let things go”.
Yap also explained that there had been there had been three declarations of martial law in the Philippine history, actually.
The first was the one declared by the late president Ferdinand Marcos in 1972. The second was in Maguindanao declared by former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The third was President Rodrigo Duterte’s Proclamation 216- -the “2017 proclamation of martial law and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao” on May 23.
“In two of those martial law declarations, we had the chance to be at the center of policy making and decision making and as how I understand it, the President and the cabinet- -the executive branch of government- -are keeping some information that they know but they cannot reveal everything. That is why we need to trust the government.
They know but they cannot reveal everything. If they are asking for it, it means some measures are needed to protect national security,” according to Yap.
He also said that the people are afraid that it is a slide back to the Marcos martial law which was different from the present martial in Mindanao.
“In the Marcos martial law, Congress was locked up. Our Congress now is continually operating. In the last martial law, there was a total military take over. Even civilian courts were closed and locked up. But now, all the civilian courts in Mindanao are still operating. The only issue is the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus,” Yap explained.
He added that the martial law in Mindanao has given more leeway in latitude to military officials to run the local affairs which is needed to crush the terrorism-extremism forces there.
“President Duterte is got the support of 80 percent of the people. Let us support the President. Let us not remove that support quickly because we are reminded of the horror of the past event. It does not mean we forgot the lessons from Marcos martial law. It is embedded in our consciousness. We do not forget the lessons at that point in time,” according to Yap.
He said it is what the government needs to do right now “and it is only until December 31”.
Anytime before December, Congress can always come back in a joint session to revoke it, Yap said.
As to the economic impact from the martial law, Yap said the House Committee on Economic Affairs, which he chairs, will assess the situation in a few months.
“For us, there are economic risks. And I’m very concerned about that as the chairman of the Economic Affairs Committee. In fact, I am going to call a hearing on the impact of martial law in Mindanao. We are going to hold it in Davao or Cagayan de Oro City in the next few months to assess the economic impact,” according to Yap.