High Court upholds extension of martial law in Mindanao

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The Supreme Court

By Vann Marlo M. Villegas

THE SUPREME COURT (SC) upheld the constitutionality of the third extension of martial in Mindanao until Dec. 31, 2019.

Voting 9-4, the SC junked the four petitions questioning the factual basis of the extension of martial rule in Mindanao.

Those who voted to dismiss the petitions are Chief Justice Lucas P. Bersamin and Associate Justices Diosdado M. Peralta, Mariano C. Del Castillo, Estelas M. Perla-Bernabe, Andres B. Reyes, Jr., Alexander G. Gesmundo, Jose C. Reyes, Jr., Ramon Paul L. Hernando and Rosmari D. Carandang.

The justices who voted to grant the petitions are Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio, Marvic Mario Victor F. Leonen, Francis H. Jardaleza, and Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa.

New SC Public Information Office Chief Brian Keith F. Hosaka said the decision was written by Ms. Carandang.

The court held an oral argument for the four petitions last Jan. 29 where Major General Pablo M. Lorenzo, Armed Forces of the Philippines deputy chief of staff for intelligence, said in his presentation that rebellion still exists despite the implementation of martial law in 2017.

Congress approved the third extension of martial law on Dec. 12, 2018, following President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s request.

Four separate petitions seeking to nullify the extension were then filed before the SC in January by the Makabayan bloc of the House of Representatives, a group of human right lawyers led by Christian M. Monsod, and lumad teachers from Mindanao.

According to the Constitution, the President may declare martial law for a period not exceeding 60 days when invasion or rebellion occurs. Congress, through the initiative of the President, may extend martial law if rebellion and invasion persist.

Martial law in Mindanao was first implemented on May 23, 2017, after the terrorist Maute group attacked Marawi City. Mr. Duterte declared the liberation of Marawi City after the killing of Maute leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute.

After the prescription of 60 days, Congress first approved on July 22, 2017, the extension of martial law until Dec. 31 that year. It was then extended for the second time on Dec. 14, 2017, covering the entire 2018.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said, “We are pleased to note that the three separate and independent branches of government, the primordial duty of which is to protect the state and secure public safety, have forged a unified stand against the forces of rebellion and terrorism.”

He also said, “We are also pleased to note that the Executive, Legislative and the Judiciary are on the same page in quelling the rebellion as well as combatting and dissipating terroristic acts destructive to lives and properties unleashed by ruthless and barbaric local and foreign armed lawless elements.”

The Department of National Defense in its statement said, “The public can rest assured that our brave Defenders will remain steadfast in their duties to safeguard our communities from the threat of rebellion, terrorism, and violent extremism, and ensure that the implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) will remain unhampered and protected from possible peace spoilers.”

Brigadier-General Edgard Arevalo, spokesperson of the Armed Forces, said in part, “The AFP leadership under General Benjamin Madrigal, Jr. vows that every soldier, airman, sailor, and marine shall lawfully and conscientiously enforce ML to crush all threats-especially local and international terrorists groups and their supporters — that are determined to dismember the country and undermine the integrity of its territory by establishing a ‘wilayat’ in Mindanao.”

The Office of the Solicitor-General for its part said it “welcomes the decision of the Supreme Court that once again upheld the factual basis for the extension of martial law in Mindanao. This decision, together with the successful conduct of the Bangsamoro plebiscite, is a significant step towards achieving lasting peace in Mindanao. Let us continue to support the government’s efforts towards a stronger Philippines.”

Senatorial candidate and Magdalo Party-List Rep. Gary C. Alejano said in his statement, “For the third time, the Supreme Court has decided to disregard our Constitution and has bowed down to the whims of the Executive branch. Nasaan na ang independent Supreme Court natin? (Where is our independent Supreme Court?) Instead of being a vanguard of justice and rationality, the Supreme Court has shown otherwise.”

“The 1987 Constitution is clear that there should be sufficient factual bases for martial law to be declared. However, it is evident that no rebellion or actual threat is existing now in Mindanao.”

Akbayan Rep. Tom S. Villarin said in his statement, “The dismissal by the Supreme Court of the case questioning the third martial law extension is judicial subservience to executive overreach. The Court’s role here is to genuinely pursue and determine whether the government is pursuing constitutionally permissible limits of executive powers. It has defaulted and abdicated such critical role in our democracy.”