Lorenzana on PH-wide martial law: ‘It won’t happen’

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Saturday, July 22, assured lawmakers convening in a joint session on martial law in Mindanao that a nationwide imposition of martial rule "will not happen."

Lorenzana made the statement after Senator Francis Pangilinan asked him if there will come a time when martial law would be declared in Visayas and Luzon too, in the light of the Abu Sayyaf attack in Bohol and the operations of the New People's Army in Luzon.

Hindi mangyayari ‘yan (It will not happen),” Lorenzana assured the senator.  

Congress convened in a joint session to tackle President Rodrigo Duterte's request for a 5-month extension of martial law in Mindanao, which was to lapse on July 22 under Proclamation No 216. This is on account of the continuing Marawi siege and the terror threat in the region.

The defense chief, who is the administrator of martial law in Mindanao, told lawmakers that an extension was needed to give security forces "some leeway to finish our job within the period given."

ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio questioned why the extension was still needed if government troops were able to neutralize 379 out of the 600 rebel fighters in Marawi City. (READ: Duterte wants martial law extension over ‘evolving’ urban warfare

Lorenzana said there have been clashes in other parts of Mindanao which they had “overlooked” following the Marawi seige. 

“We still need the extension [of martial law] because we still have a lot of problems in Central Mindanao, Basilan, and Sulu. Because of what happened in Marawi, we kind of overlooked what is happening in Jolo because we redeployed our forces in [Marawi], Lanao del Sur,” Lorenzana said in Filipino.

Senator Grace Poe, who voted to extend martial law in Mindanao until December 31, said a nationwide martial law is far-fetched, at least as of now.

"Kalokahan na isipin ngayon yan.. Tingin ko sa ngayon, napakalayo sa ating isipan, kaya nga we are trying to contain the situation in Mindanao and mabuti na rin na nakikita natin ang proseso, papaano," Poe said in an interview on dzBB on Sunday, July 23.

(It's silly to think about now. I think as of now, it's still far-fetched, that's why we are trying to contain the situation in Mindanao and it's good that we are seeing the process.)

Poe said a nationwide martial law, if ever, would undergo the scrutiny of the Senate.

"Ako talaga, hindi ako papayag na basta-basta nilang gagawin iyan. Hindi tayo papayag na sa gobyerno man o sa mga terorista, sila ang aagaw sa kalayaan na iyan, parehong pagbabantay," she said.

(I will not let them just do that. We will not allow the government, even the terrorists, to take away our freedom. We will watch over both.)

Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23 after the military and the police clashed with members of the Maute Group and the Abu Sayyaf Group. Two months of fighting have led to deaths of 100 soldiers, 427 terrorists, and 45 civilians, according to military data. A total of 525 firearms were also recovered.

The President may only declare martial law for a maximum of 60 days. Any extension requires the approval of Congress, leading Duterte to send a request letter to Congress earlier this week.

According to him, homegrown terrorists in Marawi are engaging in a “newly evolving” type of urban warfare, a challenge for government forces.

Several teachers to the Lumads had interrupted the joint session on Monday, shouting “Never again, never again, never again to martial law!” in front of 14 senators and 241 lawmakers. (WATCH: Protesters interrupt Congress joint session on martial law)

A total of 158 votes will be needed for the President’s request for extending martial law to be granted by Congress, where a majority are Duterte allies. – with a report from Lian Buan / Rappler.com 

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.