A third petition challenging the constitutionality of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s one-year extension of martial law in Mindanao has been filed before the Supreme Court (SC) on Friday, January 12.
The petition was brought forth by former Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairperson Loreta “Etta” Rosales, represented by her lawyer, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay.
In her petition, Rosales insisted that there is no factual basis for extending martial law in Mindanao due to the absence of an actual invasion or rebellion, citing that Marawi City had already been liberated from Maute terrorists last October.
She noted that the Constitution allows for martial law to be imposed in case of “invasion, rebellion or when the public safety requires it.”
Duterte first imposed martial law in Mindanao on May 23, 2017 after Maute terrorists seized Marawi City, triggering an armed conflict that lasted for five months. The proclamation was initially set to expire last July 22 but was then extended by Congress until December 31 last year.
However, despite declaring the liberation of Marawi City, Duterte asked Congress to retain martial law until December 31, 2018 for the “total eradication” of pro-Islamic State (IS) terrorists and communists rebels in the area.
“The foregoing statements clearly show that the Maute rebellion has already been quelled and the purpose of the one-year extension is to mop up the scattered rebels and prevent them from gathering and consolidating their strength,” Rosales said.
Rosales also noted that Duterte’s reference to continued threats posed rebels cannot be used to justify the further extension.
“The president can no longer declare or extend martial law on the basis of mere threats of an impending invasion or rebellion. This is the clear, indisputable letter and intent of the 1987 Constitution,” she stressed.
She went on to point out that as the commander-in-chief, Duterte’s military powers are enough to quell the rebellion and, thus, no longer need the military control.
“In the language of the Constitution, the purpose of using military force is to ‘prevent or suppress’ activities of the enemies of the State,” Rosales said.
“To this end, the full powers of the military may be used by the president against those who engage in ‘lawless violence, invasion or rebellion,’ without the need to impose martial law,” she added.
The SC is set to hold an oral arguments on two consolidated petitions previously filed by the so-called “Magnificent Seven” of the House of Representatives, led by Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, and by human rights advocates and cause-oriented groups represented by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), on January 16 and 17.
Rosales asked the high court to consolidate her petition together with the first two appeals, and that hers be included in the upcoming oral arguments.
In a statement, Malacañang acknowledged the latest petition against Duterte’s martial law extension.
Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque, however, claimed that the one-year martial law extension in Mindanao “enjoys overwhelming presumption of constitutionality.”
“The declaration of martial law, the extension for a year enjoys overwhelming presumption of constitutionality, given that both the executive and the legislative branches of government have found both legal and factual basis for the declaration of martial law,” Roque said.