New suit filed vs. martial law in Mindanao

MANILA Another suit has been filed before the Supreme Court (SC) questioning the extension of martial law in Mindanao.

In a 30-page petition dated January 15, lawyers, led by Christian Monsod, asked the court to issue a restraining order to stop the implementation of Proclamation No. 216 extending martial law in the region.

The petitioners argued that "the power of the court to determine the sufficiency of the basis of martial law is over and beyond the action which Congress may take... (T)he intent of the framers of the Constitution is for this Honorable Court to play an active role in the determination of the sufficiency of the factual basis for the extension of martial law at this instance," they said.

"Verily, the Court of expected to be especially critical and have an active involvement with this conferred power to review the proclamation or extension of martial law. The powers of the judiciary to review is actually a product of our experience during martial law," the petitioners added.

Meanwhile, the oral arguments into the suit challenging the extension of martial law in Mindanao has been rescheduled, SC spokesman Jose Midas said on Monday.

"There will be no oral arguments tomorrow. It has been moved to January 29 and if another day is still needed,on the 30th," Marquez said in a message to reporters.

Militant group Bayan Muna, which filed their own petition, earlier asked the high court to consolidate their petition with the one filed by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and that the group may "be allowed to participate in the oral arguments."

Oral arguments on the Lagman petition were originally scheduled Tuesday (January 22).

State lawyers, on the other hand, requested the Supreme Court to turn down the petition filed before the tribunal, which challenges the validity of the extension of martial law in Mindanao.

In a 50-page comment, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) pointed out that conditions warranting the extension of martial law did not end with the cessation of the Marawi City siege by extremist groups.

The OSG also insisted that there is "sufficient factual basis to extend the duration of the effectivity of martial law since rebellion persists in Mindanao and (that) public safety requires the extension."

Solicitor General Jose Calida also underscored that Congress has the sole authority to allow or deny any extension of martial law, explaining that the petitioners in the case failed to show that they will be prejudiced by the extension of martial law.

"Petitioners do not have a clear and unmistakable legal right to prevent the implementation of the extension of martial law in Mindanao," he said.

Among other things, Calida also pointed out that communist terrorist groups have pursued recruitment campaigns in Mindanao, leading to more lawlessness and violence.

No less than 181 persons in the martial law arrest orders have remained at large, Calida noted.

"Despite the dwindling strength and capabilities of the local terrorist rebel groups, the recent bombings that transpired in Mindanao that collectively killed 16 people and injured 63 others in less than two months is a testament on how lethal and ingenious terrorist attacks have become," he said.

The OSG also stressed that Mindanao remains to be the hotbed of the communist insurgency, citing that eight of the 14 active provinces in terms of communist rebel insurgency are on the island.

Citing again the SC's previous rulings, the OSG said sufficient legal safeguards are in place against human rights abuses.

Meanwhile, at the end of its en banc session Tuesday, the high court impleaded Congress as a party in the case and required it to file a comment before January 21.

The SC has set the oral arguments on the petition on January 22 and 23.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23, 2017 after Maute terrorists attacked Marawi City.

Martial law in Mindanao has thrice been granted extension, with the most recent from Jan.1 to Dec. 31, 2019. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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