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Martial law hit, defended

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By Jeffrey G. Damicog, Mario B. Casayuran, and Vanne P. Terrazola

The debate whether martial law in Mindanao should be extended continues.

On Saturday, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay warned that extending martial law in Mindanao is unconstitutional.

“It’s unconstitutional to extend martial law in Mindanao long after government had declared victory,” stated Hilbay in his post on his Twitter account.

Back in October, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) declared victory in Marawi City, claiming it has defeated the Maute terrorist group which tried to take over the area.

Hilbay reminded those pushing for martial law extension that the only reason it was declared was due to the Maute attack on Marawi City which begun way back in May.

“The Constitution requires actual invasion, rebellion,” he pointed out.

But Senator Richard J. Gordon defended the extension of martial law in Mindanao by one year, saying it is badly needed as there are continued recruitments by secessionist and terrorist organizations or groups to fight the national government.

Rebellion exists in these Muslim-dominated areas in the country through these recruitment efforts, said Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.

Investors might get scared

But Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, said extending the implementation of martial law in Mindanao may have an adverse effect on the country’s economy as foreign investors may think that it is “dangerous and unstable” here for their businesses.

While saying he is open to the extension, Gatchalian, citing his talks with economists, stressed that martial law, as a “side effect,” could scare away interested investors.

“When we talk of martial law, foreign investors think it is dangerous in the Philippines and that their rights would be violated. It would appear that we are unstable that’s why we need martial law…It really is a bad taste in the mouth for our investors,” he said in a radio interview.

Should the government pushes through with martial law extension, Gatchalian said there should be an effort to “show foreign investors that we are stable.”

He said he wants an “extensive” briefing not only from national security officials on the extent of terrorism in Mindanao, but also from financial and economic advisers on the possible effects of the extension of martial law.

Gatchalian, likewise, said he wants to hear from the Commission on Human Rights for updates on alleged human rights violation in the southern regions while martial law was in effect.

He said senators are set to meet formally on Monday to tackle the proposal. While “terrorism remains the biggest threat,” Gatchalian said national security officials should be able to justify to senators their basis for extending the military rule.

But Hilbay expressed fears that extending martial law over in Mindanao might lead to a nationwide imposition of martial law.

“If we allow martial law extension in Mindanao on fake grounds, we make it easier to declare nationwide martial law on another fake basis,” he cautioned.

Both the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are pushing for the extension of martial law in Mindanao which is set to expire by yearend.

The AFP cited the need to keep Mindanao safe and secure from threats of remaining terrorists, other armed groups, and the increase of violent incidents involving the communist rebels.

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