THE Supreme Court is set to conduct oral arguments on Jan. 17 after it has consolidated all four petitions requesting it to declare the one-year extension of martial law in Mindanao as unconstitutional.
In a Twitter post, the High court also confirmed it had officially received another two of the four petitions filed on Friday.
It was former Commission on Human Rights chairman Loretta Ann Rosales who filed on Friday morning and another separate petition from the group of constitutional expert and lawyer Christian Monsod and Dinagat Islands Rep. Kaka Bag-ao.
In her petition, Rosales told the SC there was no factual basis for extending martial law as there was no actual invasion, rebellion or the lives of the people were at risk.
“Actual invasion or actual rebellion presupposes the existence of a theater of war that requires the imposition of military law on the civilian population. Thus, in the absence of an actual invasion or actual rebellion, necessarily, there is no factual basis for extending martial law,” she argued.
Meanwhile, Solicitor General Jose Calida, the government’s top lawyer, defended on Saturday that the proclamation of martial law was a matter entirely different from its extension.
Calida released a comment after four individuals filed petitions before the Supreme Court seeking to declare the one-year extension of martial law as unconstitutional.
“The declaration of martial law is an act of the President. The extension, on the other hand, is the prerogative of the Congress,” Calida stressed.
“It follows that the judicial review of the proclamation of martial law is different from judicial review of the extension,” he added.
According to Calida, the President requested the martial law extension but it was Congress that extended it.
“In view of the presumption of constitutionality accorded to the extension of martial law, it is incumbent upon all the petitioners to overturn the presumption, meaning, show facts that the extension is without basis,” Calida opined.
He said the petitions railed against the extension of martial law.
“These Petitions rail against the extension of the martial law because Marawi has been liberated, and there is no rebellion, or the communist rebellion in Mindanao allegedly does not endanger public safety to warrant the extension and suspension,” Calida said.
Rosales also urged the SC to decide in her favor as the High Tribunal was the only agency that could prevent the government from misusing martial law.
“The Honorable Court is the last institution that prevents the misuse and normalization of martial law for ordinary peacekeeping and governance activities,” she noted.
The group of lawyers led by Bag-ao and Monsod, on the other hand, told the High Tribunal there was no more reason to impose martial law and suspend the privilege of the writ of hebeas corpus in Mindanao since the fire fighting in Marawi City had ended in October last year.
The petitioners also slammed Congress’ approval of the extension on Dec. 13 and accused the lawmakers of failure to exercise their mandate to establish if President Rodrigo Duterte’s request have met constitutional requirements.
“The perfunctory manner by which Congress considered and approved the further extension of martial law is highlighted by the very limited time given to legislators to propound searching questions to respondents chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Secretary of National Defense, and other resource persons of the government during the deliberations to actually determine the factual basis for the extension of martial law in Mindanao,” the petitioners said.
“Verily, Resolution of Both Houses No. 4 dated Dec. 13, 2017 underscores the fact that the Congress’ act of approving the further extension of martial law is indeed unjustified and unwarranted,” it added.
The group of Bag-Ao and Monsod also made similar argument as they stressed that the government had declared victory over Maute terrorists group who attacked the city of Marawi in May 2017.
“This alleged rebellion invoked in the extension could not have been the same rebellion existing from May 2017, as the actual rebellion that was found by this Honorable Court could be founded on factual basis is the Marawi crisis. And such has been resolved as pronounced by the President himself,” they said.
Although there are reports that claim regrouping by the terrorist group, the group said “these are not tantamount to an actual rebellion in the strictest sense of the word, as to snatch a territory from the power of the state.”
The petition also added that even if the attacks made by the New People’s Army were alleged rebellious acts, the same “does (sic) not rise to the level of rebellion that constitutes a group for the extension of Proclamation No. 216.”
The first petition was filed last Dec. 27 by a group of congressman led by Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman.
The second one was filed on Jan. 8 by the group led by Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate and Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao.
Calida noted that Marawi was not the entire Mindanao and that the liberation of the city did not signal the end of the rebellion in the whole Mindanao.
The Solicitor General said the Supreme Court had recognized in Lagman v. Medialdea that there were other rebel groups in Mindanao that had launched offensives.
“Because of the widespread atrocities in Mindanao and the linkages established among rebel groups, the armed uprising in Marawi cannot be equated with the rebellion in the other parts of Mindanao,” he said.
Calida further argued it was not the place of the P\petitioners to dictate on the President as to which Commander-in-Chief power is most appropriate in dealing with the ongoing rebellion.
“Due deference must be made to the judgment call of the President, as it is based on vital, relevant, classified, and live information not ordinarily available to the public. The President is privy to such sensitive data, release or publication of which could do more harm than good,” Calida said, addressing Petitoners’ contention that martial law was unnecessary.
“Apart from disregarding the Supreme Court’s earlier ruling, petitioners also want the Court to believe that communist rebellion is not detrimental to public safety, notwithstanding the attacks on civilians in the name of Marxist ideology,” Calida added.