The Supreme Court (SC) is set to hold oral arguments on the consolidated petitions challenging Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s one-year extension of martial law in Mindanao.
During the deliberations of the court en banc on Wednesday, January 10, the high court has decided to tackle two petitions next week on January 16 and 17.
The high court also said that it has ordered the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), which will represent the respondents led by Duterte in the hearings, to comment on the second petition filed by filed by human rights advocates and cause-oriented groups represented by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) not later than January 13.
The other petition was filed by the so-called “Magnificent Seven” of the House of Representatives, led by Albay Representative Edcel Lagman.
Other members of the bloc include Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin, Caloocan 2nd District Rep. Edgar Erice, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat, Jr., Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, Capiz 1st District Rep. Emmanuel A. Billones, and Northern Samar Rep. Raul Daza.
Last month, Congress extended anew Duterte’s martial law proclamation and suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao until December 31, 2018 for the “total eradication” of Islamic State (IS)-inspired terrorists and communists rebels in the area.
Duterte first placed Mindanao under military rule 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.
Petitioners, however, argued that there is no current actual rebellion in Mindanao.
“Threats of violence and terrorism by remnants of vanquished terrorist groups do not constitute a constitutional basis for extension of martial law because ‘imminent danger’ has been deleted as a ground for imposing martial law under the 1987 Constitution,” the opposition bloc’s petition read.
They also expressed fear that that a second extension it may lead to “extensions in perpetuity.”
NUPL Chairman Neri Colmenares, on the other hand, further pointed out that the “government is functioning in Davao City and the entire country.”
“This is a violation of the Constitution which only allows the imposition of martial law when there is actual rebellion and when the operations of civilian government are substantially impaired that public safety should be preserved,” Colmenares said.