Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will not allow perpetual extensions of martial law, Malacañang assured on Thursday, December 28.
Allaying fears that the recent re-extension of martial law proclamation in Mindanao may lead to “extensions in perpetuity,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque stressed that an endless military rule is “patently unconstitutional.”
“Martial law in perpetuity is a scenario that neither the president, Congress or the Supreme Court (SC) will allow as it is patently unconstitutional,” Roque said.
Malacañang issued the statement a day after the House of Representatives’ “Magnificent Seven,” led by Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, filed a petition challenging the re-extension of Duterte’s military rule in Mindanao before the SC.
In their petition, the opposition lawmakers stressed that the 1987 Constitution “does not allow a series of extensions or re-extensions of a martial law proclamation, which may lead to ‘extensions in perpetuity.’”
Roque, however, insisted that the petitioners’ allegations of unending military rule “are mere surmises and conjectures and not supported by law and the Constitution.”
The Palace official also expressed the readiness of the Duterte administration to defend the re-extension of martial law in Mindanao.
He pointed out that both the legislative and executive departments of the government have already agreed that martial law in Mindanao is “necessary to quell the remaining terrorists” in the area after Congress “overwhelmingly” approved to retain it for another year.
He went on to say, “The legal and factual bases of the martial law extension have been clearly established based on the security assessment by our ground commanders.”
“We are thus prepared to defend our position before the High Court,” Roque said.
Last December 13, Congress approved the one-year extension of martial law after the Senate voted 14-4 and the House voted 226-23 in favor of extending military rule in the area.
Duterte first declared martial law and suspended the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao following the attack of Maute rebels in Marawi City on May 23. The president’s 60-day proclamation was initially set to expire last July 22 but was then extended by Congress until December 31 of this year.
The president declared the liberation of Marawi on October 17 but on December 11, he requested Congress anew to retain martial law in Mindanao until December 31, 2018.
He cited the continuing threats posed by Islamic State (IS)-inspired terrorists and local terrorist groups, including their recruitment efforts, as basis for his extension request.
Petition against re-extension
Opposition lawmakers, however, insisted that the re-extension of martial law for one more year should be declared “null and void” because there is “no actual rebellion” in Mindanao.
“‘Rebellion’ or ‘invasion’ is neither a state of mind or a state of fear. It must be actual, not contingent. It must be real, not contrived,” their petition read.
They also argued that “remnants” of vanquished terrorist groups “do not have the capacity to launch a rebellion even as the government is molding them into apparent menacing ogres, instead of preempting them by ordinary military and police operations without the need for extending martial law.”
The opposition lawmakers likewise pointed out that the phrase “imminent danger,” which was used by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos for placing the entire Philippines under martial law from 1972 to 1981, was removed in the current 1987 Constitution.
Section 18, Article 7 of the 1987 Constitution states that the president may declare martial law “in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it.. for a period not exceeding sixty days.”
It also states that Congress “may revoke such proclamation or suspension” and “upon the initiative of the president… may, in the same manner, extend such proclamation or suspension for a period.”
Apart from Lagman, other petitioners include Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin, Caloocan 2nd District Representative Edgar Erice, Ifugao Representative Teddy Brawner Baguilat, Jr., Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano, Capiz 1st District Emmanuel A. Billones, and Northern Samar Representative Raul Daza.
The respondents, on the other hand, are Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, and Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Rey Leonardo Guerrero.
In their petition, the opposition lawmakers asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) “before the effectivity on January 1, 2017 of the challenged re-extension” of the military rule.
“The issuance of injunctive relief will foreclose the further commission of human rights violations and derogation of the rule of law in Mindanao during the extended period, which violations occurred in the initial implementation of Proclamation No. 216 and its first extension,” the group said.
They also accused Pimentel and Alvarez of “unduly constrict[ing] the period of deliberation and interpellation on the subject extension so much so that the President’s request for extension was approved without basis and with inordinate haste.”