Duterte Wins Significant Majority to Extend Martial Law in SouthBy and
Congressional vote comes ahead of State of the Nation address
Philippine president remains popular despite tough challenges
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte won a Congressional vote on Saturday to extend martial law in the southern island of Mindanao, strengthening his legislative hand in the year ahead.
With government troops battling Islamic-State linked militants in Marawi City, the House of Representatives voted 245 to 14 in favor of extending martial law until the end of the year. Senators approved it by a 16 to 4 margin.
There was a muted attempt to limit the scope of military rule and keep the martial law extension to 60 days instead of five months. When this failed, some lawmakers opposed to the extension said they would mount a Supreme Court challenge.
There was no evidence of rebellion outside Marawi City, said Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who voted against the bill.
Worried that Congress had been reduced “to a mere echo chamber,” Drilon warned that giving in to Duterte now could mean that “tomorrow we will wake up with martial law being declared in the entire country.”
Duterte has remained popular despite the two-month siege in Marawi City representing one of the toughest challenges of his presidency.
Duterte will hold his second annual State of the Nation Address at 4 p.m. on Monday. He is expected to push for tax reform, as well as legislation supporting peace with Muslim rebels in the south.
Duterte’s address will be delivered in English, and likely peppered with spontaneous remarks, said his spokesman Ernesto Abella. “On the whole, it will be frank, challenging, realistic but hopeful,” he said.
“Congress’s decision to extend martial law can be seen as a sign of the high probability that the president’s economic and fiscal agenda will be passed soon,” said Jonathan Ravelas, chief market strategist at BDO Unibank Inc., the nation’s largest lender.
“It’s clearly a manifestation of his popularity and support from Congress and the people as seen in the last ratings.”
— With assistance by Ian C Sayson, and Norman P Aquino