By Rey G. Panaligan
Former Human Rights (CHR) chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales yesterday asked the Supreme Court (SC) to declare unconstitutional the extension of martial law in Mindanao until Dec. 31, 2018.
Rosales told the SC that mere threats of violence do not justify the declaration of martial law because the Constitution provides that the imposition of martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus can be done only in case of invasion, rebellion or when the public safety requires it.
The Rosales petition, filed through former solicitor general Florin Hilbay, is the third case elevated to the SC questioning the extension that was approved by Congress by a vote of 240-27 and the Senate by a vote of 14 – 4 last December 13.
The High Court set oral arguments starting January 16 on the first two petitions filed by the group of Rep. Edcel Lagman and a group of Party-List members of Congress through the National Union of People’s Lawyers.
Earlier, Solicitor General Jose Calida – in behalf of government agencies named as respondents – asked the SC to dismiss the petition filed by Lagman’s group not only on a technicality but also on substantial legal grounds.
Calida was ordered to file his comment on the second petition not later than 5 p.m. today.
It is expected that the Rosales petition, if found without technical defect, would be consolidated with the first two petitions and included in the oral arguments.
No actual invasion
In her petition, Rosales said President Duterte sought the extension of martial law in Mindanao to ensure total eradication of local and foreign terrorist groups since “despite the death of [Isnilon] Hapilon and the Maute brothers, the remnants of their groups have continued to rebuild their organization through the recruitment and training of new members and fighters to carry on the rebellion.”
But Rosales said the Constitution provides that to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion, the President’s calling-out power should be exercised by directing the military to prevent such violence, rebellion or invasion.
“Actual invasion or actual rebellion presupposes the existence of a theater of war that requires the imposition of military law on the civilian population. Thus, in the absence of an actual invasion or actual rebellion, necessarily, there is no factual basis for extending martial law,” she said.
In urging the High Tribunal to act favorably on her petition, Rosales said “the Honorable Court is the last institution that can prevent the misuse and ‘normalization’ of martial law for ordinary peacekeeping and governance activities.”
Martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao was first imposed by President Duterte for 60 days on May 23, 2017 following the attack on Marawi City by the ASG/Maute Group. It was extended by Congress until Dec. 31, 2017 upon the request of the President.
The High Court ruled on the constitutionality of the President’s proclamation on May 23, 2017.
Factual, legal basis
But Malacanang insists the one year extension of martial rule has firm factual and legal basis.
“We welcome the challenge but the two branches of government – the executive and the legislative – have already found factual and legal basis for the declaration of martial law,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press briefing in Bukidnon.
“The declaration of martial law, the extension for a year enjoys overwhelming presumption of constitutionality,” he added.
Instruction No. 1
Meanwhile, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Mujiv Hataman warned absentee and non-performing local chief executives of sanctions following the issuance of Martial Law Instruction No. 1 by Martial Law administrator and defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana Monday.
The order called for a close monitoring of the performance of local chief executives in Mindanao.
Lorenzana said the absence of local chief executives, “in some cases, results in the total failure in the delivery of vital basic services to their constituents.”
“This situation presents a very serious concern as the lack of basic services leads to a general dissatisfaction with government, which has been determined to be one of the leading causes for individuals to join rebel, or extremist groups,” Lorenzana said.
In Instruction No. 1, Lorenzana directed the military, the police and other law enforcement agencies in the area to assist Hataman and provincial chief executives in monitoring the local chief executives.
“At the end of each month, regular compliance and evaluation reports are to be consolidated at the provincial level and submitted to the Office of the Martial Law Administrator,” the order read.
Some local officials in Mindanao are seldom seen in their areas of responsibility after election.(with reports from Genalyn D. Kabiling and Nonoy E. Lacson)