Alvarez wants martial law extended till 2022

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez

TAGUM CITY—House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Friday said that he was open to the idea of extending martial law in Mindanao until President Duterte steps down in 2022 to fast-track development and address the Marawi crisis and other peace and security problems in the region.

Alvarez said the nearly month-old martial rule had been well-received by majority of the more than 20 million people in the Philippine south and that critics, particularly those who were not from Mindanao, had no reason to oppose or worry about it.

“This is just my personal view, okay? This is not the position of Congress. I have to make it clear,” the representative for Davao del Norte’s first district said on the sidelines of the launching of the Hijo Industrial Estates economic zone here.

The speaker’s statement came a day after the Supreme Court ended oral arguments on petitions seeking to nullify Proclamation No. 216, which placed Mindanao under a 60-day martial law following attacks by Islamic State-inspired Maute/Abu Sayyaf terrorists in Marawi City since May 23.

The speaker said he was open to broaching the possibility to the President.

“I would like to extend this up to the end of the term of the President. My grounds: To really ensure the end of this conflict in Mindanao, and to fast-track the infrastructure projects. This is for our interest, isn’t it?” he said.

Mr. Duterte had earlier hinted that martial law could be shortened as soon as the threat of terrorism was over, but said he would order the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus—short of declaring martial rule—if the rebellion in Marawi spreads to areas outside Mindanao, such as the Visayas.

The Davao del Norte solon said people in Luzon and the Visayas had nothing to worry about as martial law was only in Mindanao.

“They have to respect the will of the Mindanaoans. If that’s what we wanted why should [people outside Mindanao] meddle? We want [this region] to develop,” Alvarez told reporters.

He said Mindanao officials as well as his House colleagues from the region had expressed their full support for martial law and would likely approve it if it would remain for the next five years.

He said martial law under the Duterte administration was vastly different from the military rule during the Marcos regime “when people feared the military.”

“Now, only the criminals and terrorists are afraid. Law-abiding citizens do not fear the military,” he said.