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Philippine Congress Extends Martial Law in Troubled South for One Year

A soldier watches demonstrators protest President Rodrigo Duterte's Martial Law declaration for the southern Mindanao region, July 7, 2017 in Manila, Philippines.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has won legislative approval to extend martial law for a year in the southern Mindanao region, which was besieged by Islamic militants earlier this year.

A joint session of Congress voted 240-27 Wednesday to grant Duterte power to continue martial law until December 31, 2018. The president imposed martial law in the region back in May, after insurgent forces seized the city of Marawi went on a rampage, burning houses, Catholic churches and taking scores of hostages. Philippine forces drove out the militants after a five-month battle, including a massive bombing campaign that left more than 1,000 people dead and the city in ruins.

Opponents said extending martial law in Mindanao is unconstitutional, because Duterte declared Marawi to be "liberated from the terrorist influence" in October. They also warned that Duterte could declare martial law throughout the entire Philippines and restore authoritarian rule similar to that of the late President Ferdinand Marcos from 1972 until he was overthrown in a popular uprising in 1986.