SC sought for TRO on martial law in Mindanao

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A congressman gives a thumbs up as he votes for the extension of Martial Law in MIndanao at the session hall of the House of Representatives in Manila on December 13, 2017, during the deliberations to extend Martial Law in Mindanao. / AFP

By Minde Nyl R. Dela Cruz

OPPOSITION lawmakers petitioned the Supreme Court on Wednesday, Dec. 27, for a temporary restraining order (TRO) or a writ of preliminary injunction against the re-extension of martial law in Mindanao as recently approved by Congress.

In the petition filed by Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman, Akbayan party-list Rep. Tomasito S. Villarin, Caloocan Rep. Edgar R. Erice, Ifugao Rep. Teddy B. Baguilat Jr., Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary C. Alejano, and Capiz Rep. Emmanuel A. Billones, they argued that Congress moved to extend the martial law for a year “by relying on the mere say-so of the military and police authorities on the purported ’continuing rebellion’ by remnants of terrorist groups in Mindanao.”

The lawmakers added that the extension “defies the Constitution’s unmistakable mandate of a limited duration of the declaration of martial law and its extension.”

“Verily, the approval of the extension of martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao utterly lacks sufficient factual basis because there is no actual rebellion in Mindanao and the re-extension is extremely long even as the approval was made with undue haste and unscrupulous imprudence,” the petition further stated.

They said the continued enforcement of martial law in Mindanao “emboldens government forces to indiscriminately attack and kill perceived enemies of the State and conduct warrantless arrests, searches and seizures even as the civilian courts are functioning.”

The petitioners also asked the high tribunal to restrain the disbursement of funds for the implementation of the martial law extension.

With a vote of 240-27, Congress in a joint session on Dec. 13 approved the extension of martial law from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2018, as sought by President Rodrigo R. Duterte, who cited the continued presence of rebellion and terrorism in Mindanao despite the end of the Marawi clash last October.

Named respondents in the petition are Senate President Aquilino Martin L. Pimentel III, House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez, Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea, Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana, Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno, and Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Rey Leonardo Guerrero.