Protesters storm Philippines Congress as martial law extended until end of year (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

Protesters storm Philippines Congress as martial law extended until end of year (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)
The Philippines Congress voted overwhelmingly in favor of extending martial law on the island of Mindanao Saturday as the battle against IS-affiliated fighters continues. So far, over 420 militants, 100 soldiers, and 45 civilians have been killed.

The initial period of martial law, which began on May 23, was due to expire Saturday evening, but strongman President Rodrigo Duterte submitted a written request to Congress to hold an extraordinary vote.

The decision was largely a foregone conclusion, however, as Duterte commands a majority in both houses, though several members of congress did voice their opposition.

“Extending martial law can unmask the Duterte government’s real political intentions to apply authoritarian rule in the country, like the way he ruled Davao City for 20 years as a city mayor,” said Rommel Banlaoi, chairman of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, as cited by the New York Times.

“Extending martial law can undermine civilian authorities and the existing democratic process in the country,” he added.

A group of protesters also stormed the chambers shouting, “Never again, never again, never again to martial law!”

Martial law is a sensitive topic in the Philippines after the two-decade rule of the brutal dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

“The local officials have not been arrested there. The courts are functioning. They are helping us. We are helping each other. Congress is in session. This is not the martial law that we had before. The martial law that we have now is to protect the people of Mindanao,” National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said, as cited by Rappler.

Duterte said on Friday that the Maute fighters appear to be holding an estimated 300 people hostage.

“I told the military, we’ll just have to wait it out,” he said. “I told them, ‘Do not attack.’ Three hundred people — that’s 300 lives. If we have to wait there for one year, let us wait for one year.”

In his written request to congress, Duterte contradicted military estimates that claimed just 60 fighters remain entrenched in the city saying he believes 220 are still battling national security forces.

“Absent any plausible explanation, I can only reach one conclusion: Martial law has no strategic contribution to the military’s anti-terrorism operations in Marawi,” Senator Risa Hontiveros, who voted against the extension, said.

Security officials claimed that almost one thousand pro-ISIS militants remain at large in the south of the country and are currently holding 23 hostages.

The IS-affiliated group was formed in 2012 by the Maute brothers, Abdullah and Omar, began attacks in 2013, and officially pledged allegiance to IS in 2015.

The group is also linked with Isnilon Hapilon, the supposed leader of the Abu Sayyaf militant group.