National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. on Wednesday said he “sensed” that the Senate is willing to allow the extension of the period of martial law but noted that nothing is final until Congress convenes in a special joint session on Saturday (July 22).
“Nothing will be final until we have the joint session,” Esperon told reporters in an interview. “I sense they are willing to extend martial law but since we will have the joint Session on Saturday, let’s wait for that.”
Esperon made this remark after security officials including himself briefed the Senate on updates regarding the crisis in Marawi City in an executive session.
Aside from Esperon, also present were Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief General Eduardo Año and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
Esperon said he is not authorized to say if some senators opposed or not but noted that “there was a very healthy, frank discussion and on the whole we understand each other.”
He said that although President Rodrigo Duterte requested for the period of martial law to extend until the end of the year, it was still up to Congress to make the decision.
“Five months because that falls to the end of the year but it’s totally up to Congress,” Esperon said.
Esperon did not mention if senators wanted to limit the scope of martial law to Lanao del Sur instead of the entire Mindanao.
He also acknowledged that martial law should not be the “solution to everything” but stressed that martial law was necessary to address the armed threat.
The National Security Adviser further said that the threat went beyond Marawi City.
Senators, meanwhile, had mixed reactions on the proposal to extend the period of martial law.
Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito said he believed that an extension of the period of martial law would help restore peace in order not just in Marawi City but the entire Mindanao.
“Even if the Marawi situation is finished, ISIS won’t be finished,” Ejercito said in a separate interview noting that it was worthy to note that there have been no abuses on the part of the government for the duration of martial law.
Sen. Richard Gordon said that he was for the extension of the period of martial law but only for 60 days instead of the proposed five-month extension.
“You know how I stand there, I said 60 days,” Gordon told reporters in a separate interview.
Sen. Grace Poe said that she had more questions to ask during the special joint session on Saturday including the purpose of the extension and the period they wanted before arriving at a decision. However, she said she was inclined to support the proposed extension.
“Siyempre sinusuportahan namin ang ating mga sundalo pero iniintindi din namin ang IDPs [internally displaced persons] (Of course we support our soldiers but we also have to understand the plight of IDPs),” Poe told reporters.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros, like Poe, had many questions to ask but said she was still against the proposed extension of the period of martial law.
“For one, ‘di ko pa masabing sumusuporta ako sa extension of whatever length (For one, I cannot say that I support the extension of whatever length),” Hontiveros said.
Senate Minority Franklin Drilon, for his part, said that he was inclined to support an extension but depending on the length and coverage.
“…We are, in general, in support of the extension of the martial law. I’m inclined to support, but we debate on the length of the extension and the coverage, so that that is where the debate will center,” Drilon told reporters.
He stressed that he fully supported the soldiers and echoed Ejercito in saying that there were no human rights violations throughout the duration of martial law.
“As you will note, there is no report of any significant human rights violation. In that sense we must commend them and we must continue to support them,” he added.
The senator said he has even proposed a meeting to come up with a supplemental budget specifically for the rehabilitation of the Marawi City and in support of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). (Azer N. Parrocha/PNA)