SolGen vows to defend martial law in court

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THE government is ready to defend President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial in Mindanao before the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Jose Calida on Friday said, as he called on the public to submit to the wisdom of the Chief Executive.

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In a news conference in Davao City following the special Cabinet meeting Thursday night, Calida said dangers in Mindanao compelled the President to “crush the rebellion that threatens to divide our country” through martial law.

“The least we can do as law-abiding citizens is to repose our trust in the wisdom and determination of President Duterte to excise this evil in our land,” Calida said.

“The Constitution says any citizen can go to the Supreme Court. And they have the right to do so. However, the Office of the Solicitor General will be defending the Republic of the Philippines and the the President when this matter goes out to the Supreme Court,” he added.

Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao for a 60-day period under Proclamation 216 last May 23, following the atrocities committed by the Maute bandits linked to the Islamic State (IS) in Marawi City.

Under the proclamation, the President said rebellion was one of the grounds to declare martial law, as shown by the Maute group’s torching of schools, churches and hospitals in Marawi, a majority Muslim city, as well the raising of the IS flag in some establishments.

“This recent attack shows the capability of the Maute group and other rebel groups to sow terror, and cause death and damage to property not only in Lanao del Sur but also in other parts of Mindanao,” the proclamation read.

Calida said Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao should not worry law-abiding citizens.

“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has ample factual basis for such proclamation. The festering rebellion of the Maute terrorist group which has pledged allegiance to the virulent [IS], otherwise known as Daesh in Arabic, is a compelling reason why martial law was declared,” he said.

Special courts for Maute cases

Also on Friday, the Department of Justice said it would plead before the Supreme Court for special courts outside Mindanao to handle cases against the Maute.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd said in a text message he had a meeting with prosecutors in Mindanao who expressed concern over the prosecution of cases against members of the local terrorist group.

The Justice department will file a petition for a change of venue for cases involving the Maute group, and will cite the need to ensure the security of prosecutors and judges.

Records showed that 89 Maute members are facing kidnapping and kidnapping with murder cases before the Malabang Regional Trial Court in Lanao del Sur. Four Maute members were also charged before the same court with a case for illegal possession of improvised explosive and incendiary devices. The cases were filed last Tuesday.

The Supreme Court has ordered all courts in Mindanao to remain open after the declaration of martial law by President Duterte.

Aside from the regional and municipal trial courts, there is a Court of Appeals station in Cagayan de Oro City that handles appellate court cases in the entire Mindanao.

 With JOMAR CANLAS

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