Another group asks SC to stop martial law extension in Mindanao
A group of party-list lawmakers and representatives of people’s organizations, including three townmates of President Rodrigo Duterte, questioned in the Supreme Court on Monday the extension of martial law in Mindanao by a year.
They said Malacañang and Congress peddled fears of enemies the government had claimed to have vanquished by shifting to terrorism the discussion on an insurgency rooted in social inequality.
“None serves as basis for the extension of martial law, its previous declaration a tragedy, its perpetuation a farce,” the petition read.
Represented by the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), the Makabayan bloc of lawmakers and other petitioners asked the high court to stop the government from extending Mr. Duterte’s Proclamation No. 216, which also suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, until Dec. 31.
They sought the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) or writ of preliminary injunction as the tribunal determines the legality of the extension through a thorough and public factual determination of the sufficiency of the factual bases.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the Duterte administration was confident that it could defend the constitutionality of martial law.
“Well, we can certainly defend martial law as it has been reviewed already by both houses of Congress and both chambers, voting jointly, concluded that there is both factual and legal basis,” Roque said in a media briefing.
The President placed the entire Mindanao under martial law on May 23, 2017, after Islamic State-inspired Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorists overran Marawi City.
As set by the Constitution, martial law was supposed to last only for 60 days, but the Senate and the House jointly voted to extend it until the end of 2017.
Last October, government troops recovered Marawi after five months of heavy fighting that killed more than 1,600 people, including about 900 terrorists and 164 soldiers and police.
Majority lawmakers again voted on Dec. 13, 2017, to extend martial law in Mindanao by a year, after security officials recommended it to the President.
“This is a violation of the Constitution, which allows the imposition of martial law only when there is actual rebellion and when the operations of civilian government are substantially impaired that public safety should be preserved,” said former Rep. Neri Colmenares, NUPL chair.
“The government is functioning in Davao City and the entire country, so why replace it with martial rule?” he said.
Colmenares said justifying martial law on grounds that it would help in the rehabilitation of Marawi or to “completely” eradicate the rebels “are not grounds under the Constitution.”
The petitioners included three Davaoeños—Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao and Save Our Schools coordinator Rius Valle—ACT Teachers’ Rep. Antonio Tinio and Francisca Castro, Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Emmi de Jesus and Arlene Brosas, Colmenares, Dr. Maria Carolina Araullo, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan’s Renato Reyes Jr. and Karapatan’s Cristina Palabay.
The petitioners pointed out that the President’s request for an extension of martial law came two months after he declared on Oct. 17 that the Maute group had been defeated and driven out of Marawi.
They said the Constitution stated that martial law may be extended only “if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.”
“The Marawi siege and other grounds … that were used as the alleged bases to justify the assailed declaration of martial law … have already been resolved and no longer persist,” the petitioners argued.
They said Mr. Duterte’s real targets were dissenters, noting that the martial law extension added the New People’s Army (NPA) and their “supporters, financiers and coddlers” as broad targets of martial law.
NUPL secretary general Ephraim Cortez said the real targets were “ordinary activists and dissenters who are critical of President Duterte’s human rights record and antipeople policies such as people’s organizations, the Church, media and independent government bodies.”
Roque countered that there had been no documented cases of abuse committed by government security forces since martial law was declared in Mindanao.
“I think the branding of [the] NPA as terrorist is separate and distinct from martial law. They were branded as terrorists because they are terrorists,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon welcomed the petition, which he said would give the Supreme Court “an opportunity to pass upon the validity of the extension.”
It was the second legal action brought against the extension of martial law.
Two weeks ago, a group of opposition lawmakers led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman challenged its constitutionality by filing a similar petition. —WITH A REPORT FROM CHRISTINE O. AVENDAÑO
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