MANILA, Philippines – Whether they decide to disapprove or allow it, the most important thing is for them to thoroughly discuss and debate on it first.
This was the advice of Vice President Leni Robredo to lawmakers as she stressed the importance of not rubber-stamping President Rodrigo Duterte’s resolve to extend martial law in Mindanao until the end of the year.
“Pakinggan natin iyong dahilan kung bakit kailangang mag-extend [Let us listen to the reasons why it should be extended],” Robredo said Wednesday before Congress convenes in a special session on Saturday, July 22, to tackle Duterte’s request to extend military rule in Southern Philippines until December 31.
“Mas mabuti din na iyong Kongreso, parang pagdebatehan siya at pag-usapan, para kung iga-grant ito, iga-grant dahil pinag-usapan nang maayos. Kung ide-deny naman, ide-deny siya kasi napag-usapan nang maayos,” she added.
[It’s also better for the Congress to debate on it and talk about it, so that if it is granted, it is granted because it was discussed thoroughly. And if it is denied, it is denied because it was discussed thoroughly.]
Asked by reporters how long should martial law in Mindanao be extended, Robredo said she was not in a position to make recommendations because she did not have complete information on why Duterte thought that military rule should be continued.
To address the crisis in Marawi City, the chief executive declared a 60-day martial law in Mindanao that started last May 23 and will expire midnight of July 22.
“Kaya mahalaga iyong usapin siguro sa Saturday sa Kongreso, kasi doon ilalahad kung bakit kailangang i-extend at bakit kailangang hanggang December 31 [That is probably why the discussion on Saturday in Congress is important because that is where reasons on why it should be extended until December 31 will be presented],” the Vice President said.
On Tuesday, presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella read Duterte’s letter to Congress about the extension of martial law, where the President said the Department of National Defense and the Philippine National Police had concluded that the rebellion in Mindanao could not be “quelled completely” by July 22.
“For this reason, because public safety requires it, I call upon the Congress to extend until 31st of December, 2017 or for such a period of time that Congress may determine the proclamation of martial law and the suspension of privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao,” Abella said in a news briefing in Malacañang, reading Duterte’s the letter.
On Wednesday, Robredo emphasized the plight of the evacuees displaced by the fighting between government forces and terrorists in Marawi City, saying that their main concern was when the conflict would end, and when they would be able to return.
“Sila iyong pinakabiktima [They’re the most victimized],” she said.
Robredo was also asked by reporters about rumors that impeachment complaints would be filed against her.
The Vice President said she didn’t do anything wrong and thus she would be ready to face accusations that would be hurled against her. “Wala tayong ginagawang mali. Handa naman tayong harapin.”
“Bahagi naman iyan ng democratic process [It’s a part of the democratic process],” she added.