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Decision on Martial Law petitions to bear on military operations



By Francis Wakefield

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Rey Leonardo Guerrero Tuesday admitted that there will be significant effects on military operations if the Supreme Court stops martial law .

Guerrero made the remark at the traditional New Year’s Call by the Department of National Defense (DND) and AFP held at the Tejeros Hall of the AFP Commissioned Officers’ Club at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

AFP Chief of Staff General Rey Guerrero (center). (ALFRED FRIAS/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

AFP Chief of Staff General Rey Guerrero (center).

“Syempre meron… (Of course there is) We expect na magkakaroon siya ng (there will be) significant effects on our operations, considering that the bulk of our operations is in Mindanao and we will be relying and depending on some of the martial law powers,” Guerrero said.

“Specifically (to be affected) is the conduct of checkpoints, conduct of vigilance patrols, visibility patrol and, of course, our intensified military operations,” he added.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier defended the government’s decision to extend martial law up to December 31 of this year, considering that there are still terror forces in Mindanao which are planning a Marawi-type of operations in the near future.

Lorenzana made the remark amidst the petitions filed before the Supreme Court (SC) questioning the legality of martial law in Mindanao.

“That is the gist of the petition but according to the interpretation of rebellion, rebellion is the continuing action. So it was started in May and it continued toward October (of last year) and it is the belief of the Armed Forces and the police that there is a continuing reorganization of the rebellious forces to fight against the government and to conduct again a Marawi-type operations sometime in the future. So we believe, I also believe, that that there is a continuing rebellion in Mindanao,” Lorenzana told reporters.

“… Some of the rebellious forces were not all killed in Marawi. Quite a number of them were able to extricate themselves from somewhere there in Mindanao. Some of them are in Central Mindanao, some are in Lanao and the report that we are getting not only from the military, from the police, but from civilians as well is that there is recruitment going on there,(that) small groups (are) training, so we will address those (issues) during this martial law extension,” he added.

The defense chief, however, stressed that it is the job of the Solicitor General to defend the legality of the declaration because it is actually a question of law.

“But we are preparing our briefing for the Supreme Court, given that if they call for us to brief (the justices) on the extension of martial law, we will be going there, together with the solicitor general and the lawyers of the solicitor general’s office,” Lorenzana said.

Lorenzana stressed that the martial law in Mindanao is meant to target terror groups and not dissenters, protesters and activists.

While government lawyers asked the Supreme Court (SC) to dismiss the first petition against the constitutionality of the extension of martial law in Mindanao until Dec. 31, 2018, another case was filed imputing abuse on the part of Congress in approving the extension.

Solicitor General Jose Calida told the SC that the first petition filed by the group of Rep. Edcel Lagman should be dismissed not only on technicality but also on substantial legal grounds

In his comment in behalf of government agencies and both Houses of Congress, Calida said the group of Lagman “committed a terrible blunder” by not attaching in its SC petition the Joint Resolution of Congress “(on)which they pin their allegation of arbitrariness.”

“Moreover, they trace the arbitrariness to the absence of an actual rebellion. The petitioners were unmindful that the Supreme Court already declared in Lagman v. Medialdea the existence of rebellion in Mindanao. Such fact is now beyond question,” Calida said.

Martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus were first imposed by President Duterte for 60 days on May 23, 2017, as a result of the attack in Marawi City by the Maute Group and its followers.

It was extended by Congress until Dec. 31, 2017 on request by the President.

When challenged before the SC, the High Court ruled on the constitutionality of the President’s proclamation on May 23, 2017.

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