By Vann Marlo M. Villegas
THE SUPREME COURT (SC) has set oral arguments on Jan. 22 and 23 for the petition by seven opposition congressmen asking the high court to void a third extension of martial law in Mindanao.
SC spokesperson and Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez said the oral arguments are scheduled at 2:00 p.m. on those two days.
The SC also asked the respondents, through the Office of the Solicitor-General, to submit their comment within a non-extendable period of seven days.
Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel C. Lagman, Akbayan Partylist Tomasito S. Villarin, Ifugao Rep. Teddy B. Baguilat Jr., Caloocan City 2nd District Rep. Edgar R. Erice, Magdalo Rep. Gary C. Alejano, and Liberal Party members Quezon City 6th District Rep. Jose Christopher Y. Belmonte and Dinagat Islands Rep. Arlene “Kaka” J. Bag-ao filed the petition on Jan. 4.
In their petition, they claimed that another extension of martial law mocks the Constitution as rebellion does not exist and persist in Mindanao, the public safety is not at risk, a new extension “unduly prolongs the martial law regime,” and Proclamation No. 216 which originally imposed martial law and suspended the writ of habeas corpus has already expired.
In a statement, Mr. Lagman said there must be an actual rebellion or an uprising against the government which puts at risk public safety to justify the extension of martial law.
“President Duterte’s letter dated 06 December 2018 to the Congress initiating a third extension failed to demonstrate the sufficient factual basis for his request, and his allegations of lawless violence and terrorism were not connected to rebellion,” Mr. Lagman said.
He also added that the President failed to comply with what he stated that he would submit detailed report “in a few days” to Congress as what he claimed in the letter regarding the “continuing existence of rebellion were merely ‘generalized.’”
Mr. Lagman also noted that martial law cannot be extended anymore “because its purpose of crushing the Marawi siege and annihilating the Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorist leadership had been accomplished” following the liberation of Marawi on Oct. 17, 2017.
Congress on Dec. 12 approved the third extension of martial law Mindanao throughout 2019.
Mr. Duterte on May 23, 2017, through Proclamation No. 216, declared martial law in Mindanao for 60 days following the attack of Maute group in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. Marawi was declared liberated on Oct. 17 that year, following the killing of terror leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute.
The Congress first approved on July 22, 2017 the extension of martial law in Mindanao until Dec. 31 of that year. It approved the second extension of martial law in Mindanao for 2018 on Dec. 14, 2017.
According to the Constitution, the President may declare martial for a period not exceeding 60 days when invasion or rebellion ensues. The Congress, through the initiative of the President, may extend martial law if rebellion and invasion persists.