Ex-human rights chair files petition seeking to nullify martial law extension

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ANOTHER petition seeking to nullify the one-year extension of martial law and suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao was lodged before the Supreme Court on Friday, this time by former Commission on Human Rights chair Loretta Ann P. Rosales.

The “express and implied requirements” of the Constitution to declare martial law “have not been complied with by respondents,” Ms. Rosales said in her petition.

Named as respondents were: President Rodrigo R. Duterte, Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronaldo M. Dela Rosa, and the Congress of the Philippines represented by its leaders, Senate President Aquilino Martin L. Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez.

Explaining the difference between the martial law and military force, Ms. Rosales said: “The President may call the armed forces of the Philippines ‘to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion’; and he may declare martial law ‘in case of invasion or rebellion, [and] when the public safety requires it.”

She further cited the letter submitted by Mr. Duterte to the Congress which listed the bases for extending martial law, such as the supposed regrouping of remaining members of the Daesh-inspired Da’awatul Islamiyah Waliyatul Masriq (DIWM) and the “intensification of the ‘decades-long rebellion’ by the New People’s Army (NPA).”

“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 petition read.

Ms. Rosales added: “The President’s grounds do not rise to the level of actual rebellion that would require the State to wield the extraordinary power of martial law against its own citizens, especially when the government’s ability to respond to the threats posed by various groups (DIWM, the Turaifie Group, BIFF [Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters], Abu Sayyaf, NPA) are appropriately and sufficiently covered by the President’s calling out power.”

Speaking with Ms. Rosales in a press conference after the filing of the petition, Alyansa ng mga Abogado para sa Bayan (ALAB) convenor Florin T. Hilbay said that the purpose of the petition is “to really define what martial law is all about.”

“You cannot simply say you are allowing the President to extend martial law in Mindanao without understanding what martial law is all about. So the fundamental question in Lagman v. Medialdea and in this case is what are we talking about when we say we’re extending martial law, we’re giving the president the power to enforce martial law in mindanao for one year,” said Mr. Hilbay, who was Solicitor General during the previous administration.

This is the third petition filed against the prolonged martial law. On Dec. 13, 2017, the Congress voted 240-27 for its reextension as sought by President Duterte despite the liberation of Marawi City from ISIS-inspired Maute rebels.

Oral arguments for the consolidated version of the first two petitions are set on Jan. 16 and 17. — Minde Nyl R. Dela Cruz