A THIRD petition assailing the extension of martial law in Mindanao has been filed with the Supreme Court.
Former Commission on Human Rights chairman Etta Rosales on Friday asked the Supreme Court to junk the one-year extension set to be tackled in oral arguments next week.
The court set the oral arguments on January 16 and 17. Magistrates will tackle the two petitions filed separately by opposition congressmen led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and human rights lawyers and militant lawmakers including Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate and Gabriela partylist Rep. Emmie de Jesus.
In the third petition, Rosales’ lawyer, former solicitor general Florin Hilbay, asked the court to consolidate the third petition with the first two petitions.
Rosales said there was no factual basis to extend the martial law declaration and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao after President Rodrigo Duterte announced in October that Marawi City had been liberated.
“With all due respect, and without diminishing the threat posed by any of the foregoing, none of these constitute actual rebellion or actual invasion. Moreover, it mistakes the distinction between the need for military force which is effected through the use of the calling out powers of the President, on one hand, and the need for imposing martial law on the civilian population, on the other,” the 35-page petition stated.
“President Duterte’s reference to the continued threat of rebels, terrorists, and communists in the region cannot be used to justify the extension of martial law,” it added.
“While the President has an unbridled discretion in using his other prerogatives – e.g., the calling out power – martial law is and should not be used as a convenient substitute for normal and even intensified police operations and military intelligence gathering,” the petition stated.
‘Presumption of constitutionality’
In a news conference in Bukidnon, Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. stressed that the extension of martial rule in Mindanao “enjoys overwhelming presumption of constitutionality.”
“Of course, we welcome the filing of the suit because that is also the right of any citizen under the 1987 Constitution,” Roque told reporters.
“The declaration of martial law, the extension for a year enjoys overwhelming presumption of constitutionality, given that both the executive and the legislative branches of government have found both legal and factual basis for the declaration of martial law,” he added.
On May 23, Duterte imposed martial law in Mindanao after the principal Islamic city of Marawi was stormed by heavily armed, homegrown extremists who had pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS) terrorists.
In July, Congress overwhelmingly voted to prolong military rule in Mindanao until the end of 2017 after the proclamation reached its 60-day constitutional limit, giving Duterte more time to stabilize the strife-torn region where IS was gaining influence.
In a rousing address to troops last October, Duterte declared Marawi liberated from terrorists after five months of fighting that gave state forces their first taste of urban warfare.
With a 240-27 vote at a joint session on December 13, it took Congress less than half a day to approve Duterte’s request to extend martial law in Mindanao up to December 31, 2018.
In his letter to Congress, Duterte cited continuing threats of IS-inspired terrorists, adding that those who escaped the Marawi battle were actively recruiting and radicalizing those displaced by the fighting.
The five-month conflict in the southern city displaced some 350,000 residents and left dead 1,100 people.
with CATHERINE S. VALENTE