By Jeffrey Damicog
Solicitor General Jose Calida today asked the Supreme Court (SC) to dismiss the petitions seeking to declare as unconstitutional the one-year extension given to martial law over Mindanao.
In a consolidated comment submitted before the SC, Calida said the there is sufficient factual basis to support the extension contrary to the claims of petitioners who said the government’s declaration of victory over the Maute terrorist group shows that there is need to prolong martial law.
Citing Section 18 of the Constitution, Calida said “the extension of the martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is justified as long as there is rebellion and the public safety requires it.”
“Although the leadership of the Mautes was decimated in Marawi, the rebellion in Mindanao persists as surviving members of the militant group have not laid down their arms,” he explained.
“The remnants remain a formidable force to be reckoned with, especially since they have established linkage with other rebel groups. These rebel groups—which include the NPAs (New People’s Army)—are waging rebellion in Mindanao,” he added.
Calida pointed out: “These purported remnants are capable of launching retaliatory attacks against the Government to wrest control of Mindanao and continue their bid to establish a wilayah in the region.”
“With the persistence of rebellion in the region, the extension of martial law is, therefore, not just for preventive reasons,” he stated.
President Duterte was prompted to declare martial law over Mindanao when the Maute group attacked Marawi City.
Martial law was supposed to last 60 days but Congress granted Duterte’s request to extend it up to December 31, 2017 and, then, his later request to extend again until December 31, 2018.
Contrary to the claims of petitioners that legislators did not even took time to question the request for a second extension, the Solicitor General said the Senate and the House of Representatives did not commit grave abuse of discretion in granting the President his request to extend martial law.
“Both groups of petitioners failed to rebut the presumption that the members of the Congress performed their duties in a regular manner. It cannot be denied that public officers enjoy the presumption of regularity in the performance of their duties,” he said.
“Time limits do not automatically translate to arbitrariness: speed in the conduct of proceedings should not automatically be attributed to an injudicious performance of functions,” he pointed out.
Citing Section 18 of Article VII, the Solicitor General said the Constitution “grants the Congress the authority to determine the period of time for which the martial law proclamation and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus be extended.
“The mere fact that the Congress extended the period to one year, or until December 31, 2018, is not a valid basis for imputing grave abuse of discretion to the Congress: no less than the Constitution grants the Congress the power to determine the period of extension,” he said.
Regarding concerns of human rights violations, Calida reminded the SC that, when it issued its July 4 decision which ruled that Duterte’s declaration of martial law is constitutional, the high tribunal said that such crimes committed during martial law “should be resolved in a separate proceeding” since “there is a risk that if the Court wades into these areas, it would be deemed as trespassing into the sphere that is reserved exclusively for Congress in the exercise of its power to revoke.”
At the moment, Calida said the petitioners claim of human rights violations committed during martial law remains unsubstantiated since “the petitioners did not attach any document to support their claims.”