WATCH: Congress agrees to extend martial law in Mindanao

MANILA, Philippines – As requested by President Rodrigo Duterte, the 17th Congress on Saturday, July 22, agreed to extend martial law in Mindanao until December 31.

Mara Cepeda files this report.

MARA CEPEDA, REPORTING: As expected, the 17th Congress grants the request of President Rodrigo Duterte to extend his declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

It will be in effect until December 31 or for another 5 months.

PANTALEON ALVAREZ, HOUSE SPEAKER: The result of the joint voting of the members of the Congress on the motion shows that 261 voted in the affirmative and 18 negative. Pursuant to the Constitution and the rules of the joint session, the motion to extend the proclamation of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is hereby approved by the Congress.

MARA CEPEDA, REPORTING: There are last-ditch efforts by opposition legislators to stop the extension of martial law. They argue it is an extreme solution to a problem that existing laws can already address.

Several teachers to Lumad indigenous people also interrupt the session to protest Duterte’s request.

Former Bangsamoro Transition Commission member Samira Gutoc-Tomawis even recounts stories of violent interrogations, unburied bodies, and Muslim women being forced to undress in inspections by the military in Marawi and surrounding cities.

SAMIRA GUTOC-TOMAWIS, MARAWI RESIDENT: I am from Marawi City, your honors. Please ask us, ‘Who do we fear?’ Please ask us, ‘How do we stand up and arise?’ Twenty bodies are in Capin Funeral for almost 60 days not buried. What if it was your grandfather na hindi po nilibing? Sa Islam, one day lang po. Hindi puwede. Bawal sa Islam! The highest form of prohibition and taboo.

(I am from Marawi City, your honors. Please ask us, ‘Who do we fear?’ Please ask us, ‘How do we stand up and arise?’ Twenty bodies are in Capin Funeral for almost 60 days not buried. What if it was your grandfather who wasn't buried yet? In Islam, just one day. This is not acceptable in Islam! The highest form of prohibition and taboo.

MARA CEPEDA, REPORTING: Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana says the extension would allow the military to quell other attacks by rebel forces they have “overlooked” following the Marawi siege.

The overwhelming vote supporting the extension is not surprising. Duterte counts a majority of lawmakers as his allies.

16 senators vote yes, while only 4 say no. In the House, 245 lawmakers vote in favor of the extension, while only 14 vote against.

The government vows to protect Mindanaoans in the next 5 months. 

But with reported human rights abuses by the military, the horrors of martial law may haunt the country once again.

Mara Cepeda, Rappler, Quezon City. – Rappler.com