‘An inordinate aberration’
The joint congressional hearing last week on the recommended third extension of martial law in Mindanao unveiled the government’s contentious reasons for why it needed to be done.
President Duterte’s Cabinet officials and their subalterns displayed flawed reasoning that belied their being the so-called “best and brightest” of this administration.
The enigmatic Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, otherwise known for logical views that sometimes contradict those of his frequently irrational principal, presented tenuous reasons for requesting an extension of martial law for another year. When asked why, he rationalized that the military and police should be given more time to apprehend the remaining “180 terrorists” who, up to this time, are still at large.
Lorenzana echoed an earlier statement made by the newly designated presidential adviser on the peace process, former general Carlito Galvez. On Dec. 4, Galvez pushed for another yearlong extension of martial law in Mindanao, saying that there was “really a clamor” for it and that “terrorism is still lurking in the area.”
In his interpellation, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman expressed disagreement with Lorenzana and the military line, claiming there was “no factual basis” for the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, and much less for its extension. Lagman added that the military and police could have easily defused the terrorists’ offensives.
It is a shame that our country’s formidable military firepower and human resources need more than two years of extended martial law to contain the threat of the supposed 180 terrorists on the loose.
Lagman argued further that extending martial law longer than its original period of implementation of 60 days was an “aberration,” and extending it for one whole year (the entire 2018) was already excessive. But asking for another yearlong extension (for 2019), he said, was an “inordinate aberration,” a gross abuse of executive discretion.
Here’s another baseless statement from Interior Secretary Eduardo Año: Martial law has made local chief executives (LCEs) in Mindanao more “cooperative” and “effective” in performing their governance mandates.
Without martial law in place, would LCEs in Mindanao not be doing their jobs, as they swore to do when they assumed office? What was the good secretary’s basis for saying so? Was a baseline study conducted on the performance of Mindanao LCEs before the implementation and extension of martial law in Mindanao? And were these Mindanao LCEs uncooperative and ineffective then?
But what is the reason for being of a head of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) if he cannot discipline erring and nonperforming LCEs and sanction them, if needed, in a “normal” and nonmartial law regime? Is this an open admission of weakness among the DILG’s top executives? Are DILG regional directors “strong” only when they dangle the coercive ML sword over the heads of Mindanao LCEs?
Moreover, Año’s argument reeks of this administration’s subliminal prejudice against Mindanao LCEs. Are the latter so “unruly” that only a prolonged martial law can make them toe the line?
A number of legislators enumerated reasons for ending martial law in Mindanao rather than extending it. These reasons include: the much delayed rehabilitation of Marawi City, causing even more insecurity among the siege survivors who live in tattered tents; the continuous harassment of indigenous populations in Talaingod, Davao del Norte; the unreasonable charging of the group that rescued the schoolchildren there with crimes of “child abuse” and “kidnapping”; the killing of six Tausug youth in Patikul, Sulu, in October; and the killing of Lake Sebu farmers on Dec. 3, among others.
Now that Congress has jointly approved the extension of martial law until December 2019, we need to brace for more inordinate aberrations and transgressions of our democratic institutions—perhaps indefinitely? Cuidate!
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