Free of HR stain

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No single case of human rights (HR) violation was filed against government security forces during the 18-month implementation of martial law in Mindanao.

Instead, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said the effectivity of military rule in the region was marked by a significant drop in the crime volume in southern Philippines during the past year.

Albayalde’s pronouncement came as the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) indicated they were ready to recommend to President Duterte the extension of martial law in Mindanao for another year.

Except for unfounded allegations by critics of the Duterte administration, the PNP chief said not a single case has been filed against lawmen in connection with the implementation of martial law.

“We haven’t heard any or a single case of human rights violation in Mindanao since the implementation of martial law,” he said.

“There were allegations by the same sectors of society (critical of President Rodrigo Duterte) but no case was ever filed. These are all allegations and not even substantiated,” he added.

On the contrary, the PNP noted a significant drop in the crime volume in Mindanao during the past year.

“Because of martial law, we have a drastic improvement on the peace and order situation in Mindanao where the crime volume dropped by 28,853 incidents or 32.8 percent,” he said.

Index crime down

“We have recorded a drop of 44.2 percent on index crimes that include murder, physical injuries and homicide cases. So, these are all the good effects of martial law and also the recovery of almost 10,000 loose firearms in Mindanao,” he added.

With the implementation of military rule, Albayalde said the PNP managed to deploy two battalions of its elite Special Action Force in areas in Mindanao, thus increasing police visibility.

He said even tourists have not stopped coming to Mindanao.

Another positive effect of martial law in Mindanao, he added, was the removal of the “control and supervision of local chief executives to the local police.”

Mr. Duterte declared martial law on 23 May 2017 after elements of the Islamic State (IS)-inspired Maute-Abu Sayyaf Group laid siege on Marawi City which ended on 23 October 2017 with the killing of more than 1,000 terrorists, government troops and civilians.

Most of Marawi City was left in ruins in its aftermath.

The initial six-month military rule was extended to one year by Congress that will expire on 31 December.

Albayalde said the PNP and AFP leaderships have already signed their recommendation to extend martial law in Mindanao for another year. They are expected to conduct next security briefings with lawmakers for their concurrence.

Not on agenda

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, meanwhile, said the extension of military rule in Mindanao was “not on the agenda” when President Rodrigo Duterte convened his Cabinet on Tuesday night.

Mr. Duterte is still carefully reviewing the recommendations made by the AFP and PNP of prolonging martial law down South but may announce his decision “today or tomorrow.”

“He is still studying it. Wait for the announcement,” Panelo replied via text message to Palace reporters when asked about the Chief Executive’s take on the peace and order situation in Mindanao.

The Palace official previously said the “safety and security of the people in Mindanao” will be the President’s main concern in deciding whether to ask Congress for another martial law extension.

Going for 3

Both chambers of Congress have twice extended military rule in Mindanao as a result of the siege of Marawi City by IS-inspired terror groups last year.

The President first declared martial rule on 23 May 2017 effective for 60 days after IS-inspired terrorists placed Marawi City under siege that resulted in a bloody battle with government forces that lasted for five months. It was extended by Congress on 23 July to 31 December 2017. A second extension, this time for a full year, was granted by both chambers on 13 December 2017. The declaration is set to expire on 31 December.

Earlier this week, Mr. Duterte had said the AFP’s and PNP’s recommendation “has not yet been submitted” to his office, but Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra bared the issue has been “taken up privately elsewhere.”

House to heed call

Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said the House of Representatives is bound to heed a call from Mr. Duterte for an extension.

“If it comes to our chamber, I will recommend to pass it,” Arroyo said in an interview, referring to the possible extension of martial rule.

Despite only three session days before the proposed Federal charter has passed on second reading last Tuesday, the Speaker denied the House of Representatives “railroaded” its passage.

“Well, it’s part of the democratic process. There was a debate, it was voted on, we sent it to them,” Arroyo, who also pushed for charter change during her administration, said.
The former President said they should take it up on third reading possibly on Monday.

Own interest

Minority Leader Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez said the Senate is “not in the mood” for the proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution as there were issues in the House version that might “threaten” the existence of the chamber.

He said it is “high time” to revisit the Constitution as the current charter was made out of “vengeance” and it instill that “anything that is Marcos is bad.”

“The conditions 30 years ago no longer exist. It is time to revisit the Constitution. We must determine whether its provisions are sustainable and can stand firm, as our nation is continuously adapting to an evolving, connected world,” Suarez said.

Moreover, BUHAY partylist Rep. Lito Atienza added it should be revised, but the House leadership should be “more democratic” and “lenient” to encourage more intelligent discussion and to prevent being a “stamp pad” Congress.

Viva voce

On Tuesday, the House approved Resolution 15 of both Houses which proposes the revision of the 1987 Constitution through voice voting a day after the period of debates was closed.

This came after Arroyo announced they will focus on the charter change this week with only three session days left before the Christmas break.

During the period of amendments, the line of succession after the President during the transitory period was changed from Senate President to Vice President.

ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio also moved to insert the anti-dynasty provision in the House version. However, it was rejected through voice voting.

With Kristina Maralit, Hananeel Bordey, and Elmer N. Manuel

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