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4 petitions filed vs martial law extension

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By ALFRED G GABOT

 

(Photo from Business World)

 

MANILA – Four petitions have been filed before the Supreme Court (SC) seeking to nullify the full-year extension up to December 31, 218 of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao, including the archipelagic provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi.

 

The Office of Solicitor General (OSG) immediately asked the High Court to dismiss the last three petitions assailing the constitutionality of the full-year extension of martial law in Mindanao after the  court  consolidated all four petitions seeking to declare as unconstitutional the one-year extension given to martial law in Mindanao.

 

With this consolidation, the SC started conducting oral arguments for all four petitions on Tuesday, Jan. 16, at 2 p.m. and will continue on Wednesday, Jan. 17, at 10 a.m.

 

The OSG  represented the respondents led by President Rodrigo Duterte in the oral arguments.

 

The four consolidated petitions against martial law in Mindanao, filed by the groups of opposition lawmakers led by Albay First District Representative Edcel Lagman, Lumad leader Eufemia Campos Cullamat, human rights groups and militant groups; former Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales; and the group led by Christian Monsod.

 

Petitioners argued anew that there is no factual basis required by the 1987 Constitution to justify the extension of martial law, claiming that the administration has even admitted that there is no actual rebellion in Mindanao.

 

The groups cited President Duterte's admission that the government has achieved victory over the ISIS-linked Maute terror group in October last year after a nearly five-month campaign to oust them from Marawi city.

 

They pointed out that the grounds raised by the executive branch in extending martial law, which was approved by Congress, "do not rise to the level of rebellion that constitutes a threat to public safety as contemplated by the Constitution."

 

With this, petitioners stressed that the extension order violated the constitutional provisions which only allowed the imposition of martial law when there was actual rebellion or invasion and when the operations of civilian government were substantially impaired that public safety required its declaration.

 

According to Monsod, the framers of the 1987 Constitution included the martial law provision despite its past horrors because “we want to cover an extraordinary situation. That is why the provision is specific, extraordinary and ultimate.”

 

"Martial law is supposed to be for exceptional case. We made the window smaller for declaration of martial law. We took away imminent danger, insurrection and the likes," Monsod recalled, who is one of the drafters of the Constitution and member of the 1986 constitutional commission.

 

Monsod told the SC that its decision in July last year upholding President Duterte's martial law declaration "seems to say that it is a measure of first resort rather than a last resort.”

 

He also reminded the justices of their duty to review the factual basis of the extension of martial law, arguing that there is no existing rebellion or invasion to justify it.

 

“You asked your honor why are we relying more on 15 justices rather than 292 Congressmen and 24 Senators [because] that is the essence of the separation of powers and the system of checks and balances in our Constitution and there is a vetting process by which the 15 justices are assumed to have the wisdom, experience and the fortitude to stand up to the other powers of government,” Monsod told the high court during the oral argument.

 

The Office of the Solictor General (OSG) is expected to represent the respondents led by President Rodrigo Duterte in the oral arguments.

 

Solicitor General Jose Calida already sought the dismissal of the petitions for lack of basis.

 

“The declaration of martial law is an act of the President. The extension, on the other hand, is the prerogative of the Congress,” Calida said.

 

“It follows that the judicial review of the proclamation of martial law is different from judicial review of the extension,” he said.

 

According to Calida, the President requests the martial law extension but it is the Congress that extends martial law, if it finds that invasion or rebellion persists and public safety requires it.

 

“In view of the presumption of constitutionality accorded to the extension of martial law, it is incumbent upon all the petitioners to overturn the presumption, meaning, show facts that the extension is without basis,” Calida opined.

 

In a 63-page comment, Solicitor General Jose Calida said the three petitions filed by Lumad leader Eufemia Campos Cullamat, human rights groups and militant groups; former Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales; and the group led by Christian Monsod, who was one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution must be dismissed due to lack of merit, noting the proclamation of martial law was a matter entirely different from its extension.

 

“The declaration of martial law is an act of the President. The extension, on the other hand, is the prerogative of the Congress,” Calida said.

 

“It follows that the judicial review of the proclamation of martial law is different from judicial review of the extension,” he said.

 

According to Calida, the President requests the martial law extension but it is the Congress that extends martial law, if it finds that invasion or rebellion persists and public safety requires it.

 

“In view of the presumption of constitutionality accorded to the extension of martial law, it is incumbent upon all the petitioners to overturn the presumption, meaning, show facts that the extension is without basis,” Calida said.

 

The third petition against the extension of martial rule was filed by former Commission on Human Rights chairperson Loretta Ann "Etta" Rosales, who is a former party-list congresswoman and a lawyer.

 

Echoing the arguments of the two other petitioners, Rosales said there was no longer factual basis to extend martial law and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao since President Rodrigo Duterte already declared last October that Marawi City — the center of skirmishes between government troops and Islamic State-inspired Maute group — has been liberated.

 

The High Court ordered the OSG to submit its comment to the second and third petition not later than 5 p.m. on Jan. 13 with the comment to be personally served on counsel for the petitioners.

 

The parties were directed to submit their respective memorandum not later than 5 p.m. on January 20.

 

Both the minority bloc from Congress led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, as well as human rights advocates and the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) have earlier maintained that there is no need to extend martial law, especially that the government declared Marawi free from the clutches of IS-inspired groups.

 

The first petition was filed on Dec. 27 by opposition lawmakers led by Lagman, who asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) or a writ of preliminary injunction to stop the implementation of the challenged re-extension pending adjudication of their petition.

 

The other petitioners are Reps. Tomasito Villarin, Edgar Erice, Teddy Brawner Baguilat Jr., Gary Alejano, and Emmanuel Billones.

 

The second petition filed on Monday (Jan. 8) by the NUPL and House lawmakers Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna), Emmie de Jesus (Gabriela), Arlene Brosas (Gabriela), Ariel Casilao (Anakpawis), Antonio Tinio (ACT Teachers), and Sarah Elago (Kabataan) said the extension would give way to “alarmingly intensified and increased human rights violations” allegedly aimed at “quelling legitimate redress of grievances against the government”.

 

They said martial law was extended despite government admission that the Marawi siege was over in October last year.

 

In their 40-page petition, the group asked the SC to compel the respondents to present proof on the factual basis for the extension of Martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao.

 

Monsod was joined by Dinagat Islands Rep. Arlene "Kaka" Bag-Ao, Rey Paolo Santiago, Nolasco Ritz Lee Santos III, Marie Hazel Lavitoria, Nicolene Arcaina and Jose Ryan Pelongco.

 

Named respondents in the fourth petition were Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Rey Guerrero, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

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