SC asked to stop 1-year martial law extension
The Constitution does not allow repeated extensions of martial law to prevent its perpetuation, according to opposition lawmakers who petitioned the Supreme Court on Wednesday to declare unconstitutional the decision by Congress to extend martial rule in Mindanao for a year.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and his colleagues also asked the high tribunal to issue a temporary restraining order to stop the authorities from implementing the extension in the troubled south, saying there “was no actual rebellion” to justify it. Besides, they said, President Duterte already had sufficient powers to deal with any violence in the region.
In a statement, Lagman said extending martial law against remnants of pro-Islamic State (IS) group fighters who laid siege to Marawi City was “akin to killing a fly with a sledgehammer.”
Mr. Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23 when the siege began. The martial law period was extended in July to the end of the year by the Senate and the House of Representatives in a joint session vote.
In October, government troops recovered Marawi after five months of heavy fighting that killed more than 1,000 people, including about 900 IS-inspired fighters and 164 government troops and police.
On Dec. 13, majority lawmakers voted for a second time to extend martial law in Mindanao for one year beginning Jan. 1 upon the recommendation of military and police authorities.
Named respondents in the petition were Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, and Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero.
In addition to the absence of an actual rebellion, the petitioners said Pimentel and Alvarez, supported by the “supermajority” in the two chambers, “unduly constricted the period” to debate the proposed extension so that it was “approved baselessly and with inordinate haste.”
“Threats of violence and terrorism by remnants of vanquished terrorist groups do not constitute a constitutional basis for extension of martial law because ‘imminent danger’ has been deleted as a ground for imposing martial law under the 1987 Constitution,” Lagman and the others said.
“The reextension of one full year defies the unequivocal intent and mandate of the Constitution of having a limited duration of martial law and its extension,” the petitioners said. “The Constitution does not allow a series of extensions or re-extensions of a martial law proclamation, which may lead to ‘extensions in perpetuity.’”
They said the extension had “no factual anchorage” and showed “grave abuse of discretion.”
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said there was no need to fear a permanent martial law in Mindanao.
“Perpetuity is something that the President, Congress, and Supreme Court will never allow,” he said in a text message.
Roque earlier said martial law was necessary to thwart terrorists and it would also help secure the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Marawi.
The restraining order sought by the opposition would be “a very, very long shot” for the petitioners, according to Pimentel.
“We wouldn’t do something unconstitutionally, consciously or intentionally,” Pimentel said in a text message.
Lagman said rebellion or invasion “must be actual, not contingent” to justify martial law. “It must be real, not contrived,” he said.
The “remnants” of defeated terrorist groups cited as a ground for extending martial law were being molded “into apparent menacing ogres, instead of preempting them by ordinary military and police operations without the need for extending martial law.”
Lagman said martial law in Mindanao should not be extended “simply to subdue residual phantoms.”
The petitioners also asked the Supreme Court to accord judicial notice to the approval by both the Senate and the House of the reextension because no copy of Congress’ joint resolution was available.
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