House opposition asks SC to void Mindanao martial law extension
Seven opposition lawmakers on Friday asked the Supreme Court to void and declare as unconstitutional the third extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao.
The 46-page petition was filed by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, Akbayan Rep. Tomasito Villarin, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr., Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice and Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano—all members of the “Magnificent 7” bloc in the House—as well as Quezon City Rep. Christopher Belmonte and Dinagat Islands Rep. Arlene “Kaka” Bag-ao of the Liberal Party.
The petitioners questioned the Resolution of Both Houses No. 16, approved on Dec. 12, 2018, which extended martial law in Mindanao, saying the resolution “mocks” the 1987 Constitution because a state of rebellion does not exist in the southern Philippine region.
In a statement, Lagman explained that the Supreme Court had ruled in previous petitions, questioning the imposition of martial law that there must be an actual rebellion and that public safety must be at risk before martial rule can be imposed or extended.
Siege long over
The Albay congressman argued that President Duterte’s Dec. 6 letter to Congress, initiating a third extension of martial law “failed to demonstrate the sufficient factual basis for his request, [while] his allegations of lawless violence and terrorism were not connected to rebellion.”
In his letter, the President admitted that the alleged rebellion has been significantly placed “under control,” Lagman said.
The petition stressed that martial law could no longer be extended because its avowed purpose of ending the Marawi City siege in 2017 and annihilating the Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorist leadership had already been accomplished.
The President himself announced on Oct. 17, 2017, that Marawi had been liberated following the killing of Isnilon Hapilon, Abu Sayyaf principal leader, and the Maute brothers, Abdullah and Omarkhayam, the petition added.
Lagman also pointed out that a third martial law extension of another year or 365 days would make the total extensions last 891 days. The accumulated 891 days of martial law, the lawmaker said, is an “enormous increase” of 1,485 percent over the original period of 60 days.
A series of long extensions makes the duration of martial law in “virtual perpetuity,” Lagman added.
He also said that the President failed to comply with his undertaking in his letter that he would submit a detailed report in “a few days” to Congress since the statements in his letter on the continuing existence of rebellion were merely “generalized.”
Under the 1987 Constitution, martial rule can be imposed only upon the threat of invasion or rebellion and when public safety requires it. It must also be accompanied by a written or oral report to Congress within 48 hours. The Constitution also puts a limit of 60 days to martial rule, after which Congress has to determine whether to extend it based on evidence of fact.