THERE is no such thing as “indefinite” martial law in the Constitution, said Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Monday as she chided President Rodrigo Duterte for threatening to prolong military rule if the Supreme Court decides to invalidate his martial law declaration.
The President on Saturday said he would order the military to withdraw from Marawi City if the Supreme Court rules that “there is no factual basis” for him to place Mindanao under martial rule to contain the Maute terrorists.
But the Commander-in-Chief warned that he might be compelled to declare a second martial law if the Maute group continues to sow terror in Marawi City. Duterte even said it would be “indefinite” and a “Marcos copycat.”
The President’s threat did not sit well with Hontiveros, a member of the Senate minority bloc. “There’s no ‘unli’ (unlimited) martial law,” the senator said.
“And even if President Duterte manages to implement this type of martial law, I am confident that the people will oppose and defeat it,” she added.
The President placed Mindanao under martial law and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus on May 23, a day after the Islamic State (IS)-linked Maute terror group attacked Marawi City.
On May 29, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Francis Pangilinan, Risa Hontiveros, Antonio Trillanes 4th, Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th, and Leila de Lima filed Resolution 390 calling for a joint session of Congress to determine whether martial law was necessary in Mindanao to defeat the terrorists.
Palace, AFP: ‘No abuses’
Malacañang and the military on Monday assured the public that Duterte did not refer to human rights abuses when he threatened to declare a “Marcos copycat” version of martial law if the Supreme Court revokes his declaration.
“It does not include at all references to any human rights abuse,” Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella told reporters in a news conference.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr. said Duterte’s remarks on martial law was only “light banter” with journalists.
“Definitely the President will not be referring to abuses. He may refer to the breadth and the depth of how to impose it but I guess it’s not because of the abuses… After all, in the pronouncement and declaration of martial law, didn’t he say: ‘If you are a law-abiding citizen, and a peace-loving citizen, martial law is not a problem that you should worry about because martial law is intended for the lawless elements and the rebels that are around,’” Padilla said.
“You can see how the military is implementing martial law now, its complete regard for human rights and international humanitarian law and the other protocols that have been established. So if there are any complaints, we are open to receiving those complaints and acting on it immediately,” he added.
SC set to rule
The high court wrapped up on June 15 the oral arguments on petitions questioning martial law in Mindanao. It will release its decision on or before July 5.
Under Section 18, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution, the Supreme Court has 30 days to decide on the case from the time the first petition questioning the constitutionality of martial law was filed.
An 84-page memorandum submitted to the Supreme Court by the Office of the Solicitor General stated that as early as the first quarter of 2017, there was already a recommendation from security officials for the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
It argued however that the President can exercise his power to declare martial law with or without recommendation from the Defense secretary.
“The lack of recommendation from the Defense secretary, or any other person, does not affect the constitutionality of the proclamation; neither does it automatically negate the sufficiency of the factual basis for its proclamation,” the memorandum stated.
Nevertheless, it clarified that prior to the May 23 proclamation of martial law, President Duterte received recommendations to declare military rule from high-ranking officials.
“In his affidavit, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana narrated that he and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. had already recommended the proclamation of martial law in Mindanao during security briefings and Cabinet meetings held during the first quarter of 2017,” it said.
In his affidavit, Lorenzana said he and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. recommended martial law in the first quarter of 2017 “due to the heightened frequency of the armed attacks in Mindanao, the advancement in the weapons used by the armed groups, and the evident political intention to dismember Philippine territory and deprive the President of his powers in Mindanao.”
The intelligence reports received by the President were also validated, as attested by AFP chief Gen. Eduardo Año.
“There exists a sufficient factual basis for the imposition of Martial Law in the whole of Mindanao by the President and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. These facts had been principally anchored on certain validated intelligence reports as mentioned by the President in his formal report to Congress dated May 25, 2017,” Año said in an affidavit.
The Office of the Solicitor General also revealed that aside from the four main rebel groups that formed an alliance for the purpose of establishing a “wilayah” or Islamic State’s province in Mindanao, there were 20 other cell groups operating in the region, also connected to the Islamic State.
The four main groups are the Abu Sayyaf Group from Basilan, Ansarul Khilafah Philippines from Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat, Maute Group from Lanao del Sur and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters from Maguindanao.
“For this year alone, there had been 43 violent attacks by these groups,” the memorandum added.
It also argued that contrary to the belief of the petitioners that the Marawi siege was a mere counter-offensive to the government’s attempt to capture Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, the attack on Marawi on May 22 “was intended to be the climax of a clear and actual takeover of Philippine territory by means of a violent uprising against the government.”
However, the petitioners are not buying the government’s position.
In their own memorandum submitted to the Supreme Court, opposition lawmakers led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman argued that the display of IS flags “do not show that the Maute and Hapilon’s faction of the Abu Sayyaf are removing Marawi from allegiance to the Philippines…The government must not succumb to this cheap propaganda.”
with CATHERINE S. VALENTE AND JOMAR CANLAS