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Politics

Philippines extends martial law for another year in troubled south

Congress overwhelmingly approves Mindanao step after Duterte points to rebellion

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte looks through a broken muzzle of a rifle after hundreds of guns and weapons were confiscated during a pro-Islamic State group siege in Marawi last year.   © Reuters

MANILA -- The Philippine Congress on Wednesday backed President Rodrigo Duterte's demand to extend martial law by another year on the troubled southern island of Mindanao.

The vote marks the third extension since Duterte first imposed martial law in Mindanao in May 2017 after Islamic State-inspired militants took over Marawi, a Muslim-majority city. Security forces liberated Marawi in October 2017, but Duterte said pockets of rebellion in the region justified a further extension.

The 235 to 28 vote -- with one abstention -- to extend military rule until the end of 2019 was widely expected as Duterte's allies hold a majority in both houses.

Duterte said earlier this month that the government has made significant progress in quelling communists and local terrorists. But he added that "rebellion still persists in Mindanao and public safety requires the continuation of martial law in the whole of Mindanao."

The country's constitution requires congressional approval to extend periods of martial law. The issue remains sensitive as former dictator Ferdinand Marcos enforced it from 1972 to 1981 to perpetuate his authoritarian rule and oppress political opponents.

Lawmakers opposed to the move said there is no basis to further extend martial law, with Senator Francis Escudero saying: "This cannot be the new normal for Mindanao." Human rights groups have criticized the extension.

On the other hand, congressmen representing Mindanao districts have thrown in their support for another extension.

"Security forces were able to maintain peace and order without violating the freedom and rights of our civilians," Lanao del Sur Representative Ansaruddin Abdul Malik Adiong said.

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