Explanation of Vote On the Extension of Martial Law in Mindanao Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph G. Recto

Mr. President:

My initial position is a Martial Law confined to Marawi, and not a coast-to-coast one that blankets the whole of Mindanao.

If we are using precision bombs in battle, then Martial Law, the biggest gun in our legal arsenal, should not be used away from the theater of war.

I would have also preferred a shorter period, to prod an earlier end, because a protracted war only prolongs the agony of civilians caught in the vise-grip of war.

But it is out of respect to those in the frontline, to the soldiers in the line of fire, that I am acceding to a five-month extension of Martial Law.

If they say that it is vital to victory, then such must not be denied to them.

I am not swayed by the optics of the commander-in-chief sauntering into the frontlines, nor by his rambling commentaries on war.

I would rather give credence to the recommendations of those in the field, like the wounded Army lieutenant who testified earlier, whose views must carry more weight.

While my support to the troops is unequivocal, my support for Martial Law is not, however, unconditional.

Amid the din of bombs, and the bluster of politicians, there is one voice that we must heed.

These are the voices of the half-a-million displaced, their homes destroyed, livelihood gone, and neighborhood razed to the ground.

They are all saying: We must not be forgotten.

I believe that more important than a proclamation extending Martial Law is a program extending sustained aid to them.

This is so because war has created a humanitarian crisis of grievous proportions which makes Marawi indistinguishable from Mosul.

Gallantry is not just displayed in the field. It is also present in evacuation centers, by mothers who battle disease, hunger and filth. To them we give this solemn vow: You are not forgotten.

Mr. President:

It is easy to destroy, hard to build. Reconstruction is harder than the prosecution of war.

That is why I believe that the Martial Law declaration needs one important accompanying measure, and that is a Bangon Marawi Fund.

I hope that when the President speaks before us two days from now in this very same hall, he will unveil a reconstruction budget.

I hope that when he sends next year's budget to us, it will include funds for the rehabilitation of destroyed communities and damaged lives.

I hope that it will be in an amount that will send this assurance to the people of Marawi: We will rebuild your city the same way it will be liberated: house to house, street to street, block to block.

Mr. President:

After we bomb, bomb, bomb, we must build, build, build.

After Martial Law in Mindanao, there should be a Marshall Plan for Marawi.

Because more important than bringing the fight to the front is bringing help to the civilians in the rear.

For after the last casualty has been buried, after the last bomb has been dropped, a harder kind of urban warfare awaits us.

And that is the urban renewal of Marawi.

Thus, it can be said, that even if the enemy has been defeated, we cannot retreat from Marawi.

We have to stay in Marawi, this time not to bring the enemy to its knees, but to help Marawi back on its feet.

We have to stay in Marawi because we have the duty to help its people, so that like the Phoenix, or the legendary Maranao bird, the sarimanok, they will rise from the ashes.

Otherwise, if we do not help the people of Marawi, if we fail them, if we neglect them, then such frustration begets disenchantment.

As it had happened in many parts of the world, from Africa to the Middle East, neglected evacuation centers become breeding grounds for dissent and a recruitment ground for the same terrorists we sought to defeat.

So Mr. President, in closing, let me reiterate the fighting slogan that should bind us all.

We must build, build, build.

Source: Senate of the Philippines

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