Martial law extension may 'normalize authoritarianism' – Belmonte

The 17th Congress on Saturday, July 22 agreed to extend martial law in Mindanao until December 31, as requested by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Lawmakers and senators were given a chance to explain their votes before the plenary. Among them was Quezon City 6th District Representative Jose Christopher Belmonte, who voted against the extension.

Here is the full text of Belmonte's speech as provided by his office.

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Mr President, Mr Speaker, I voted no on the extension of martial law. While I see the need to give further support to the Armed Forces and to the national civilian police, I do not agree to the extension of martial law for 150 days and the corresponding suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus over the whole of Mindanao. To do so would normalize the environment of military rule reserved only for the most extraordinary of times. To do so may set a dangerous precedent of normalizing authoritarianism. To do so may have the effect of destroying the very institutions we have sworn to preserve. 

Paano kung masanay tayo, Mr Speaker? Papaano kung gawing indefinite and martial law? Papaano kung sa susunod na may konting dahilan ay buong Pilipinas na ang ipasok nila sa martial law? Papaano kung masanay ulit ang AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) at makalimutan nila ang self restraint at ang respect for human rights dahil nasanay na ulit sila sa unlimited power? By resorting to extraordinary solution of martial law, aren’t we falling into the  trap created for us by the terrorist? The trap na mismong gusto nila mahulog tayo?

How many communities will we transform into war zones? How many children will have fallen back from their education? How many families will have been displaced and forced away from their homes? How has the Maranao culture and heritage been affected? How many more recruits are we making for the extremist and the terrorist

My district is home to the Salam Mosque Compound, the area with the largest population of Muslims in Quezon City, residents of which have families, friends, and loved ones in Mindanao; and whose hearts remain in Mindanao. Echoing the sentiments of my constituents—Filipinos who love this nation and its people – we want the killing, the fighting to stop.