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SC sets guidelines on oral arguments on petition vs. martial law in Mindanao

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By Rey Panaligan

The Supreme Court (SC) laid down Wednesday (January 16) the guidelines on the oral arguments starting January 22 on the petition that challenged the constitutionality of the extension of martial law in Mindanao until Dec. 31, 2019.

Set for oral arguments is the petition filed by the group of Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman. It claimed that the third extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao has no basis and violates the Constitution.

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This developed as another petition was filed against the extension. This time, the petition was filed by the group of Bayan Muna Party-List Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate.

It is expected that the new petition would be consolidated with that filed by Lagman and his group.

Under the guidelines on oral arguments, the issues would be tackled first by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) representing both the Executive and the Legislative departments.

After the OSG’s presentation, Lagman’s group will follow.

Opening statements of the opposing parties would be made in writing and must be submitted to the SC not later than January 18.

The issues to be tackled are:

  • “Whether there exists sufficient factual basis for the extension of martial law in Mindanao – whether rebellion exists and persists in Mindanao, whether public safety requires the extension of martial law in Mindanao, and whether the further extension of martial law has been necessary to meet the situation in Mindanao.
  • “Whether the Constitution limits the number of extensions and the duration for which Congress can extend the proclamation of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.
  • “Whether Proclamation No. 216 has become functus officio (“a Latin word which refers to the automatic termination of an office or official activity once it shall have served the legal purpose for which it was constituted”) with the cessation of the Marawi siege that it may no longer be extended.
  • “Whether the manner by which Congress approved the extension of martial law is a political question and is not reviewable by the Court en banc – whether Congress has the power to determine its own rules of proceedings in conducting the joint session under Section 18, Article VII of the Constitution; whether Congress has the discretion as to how it will respond to the President’s request for the extension of martial law in Mindanao, including the length of the period of deliberation and interpellation of the executive branch’s resource persons.
  • “Whether the declaration of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or extension thereof may be reversed by a finding of grave abuse of discretion on the part of Congress, and if so, whether the extension of martial law was attended by grave abuse of discretion.
  • “Whether the allegations of human rights violations in the implementation of martial law in Mindanao is sufficient to warrant a nullification of its extension.
  • “Whether a temporary restraining order or injunction should issue.”

Earlier, the OSG – through Solicitor General Jose C. Calida – had said that with rebellion persisting in Mindanao, the extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus until Dec. 31, 2019 are justified.

Calida had asked the SC to dismiss the petition filed by Lagman and his group as he pointed out that contrary to the allegations, rebellion – a key requirement for declaration of martial law under the Constitution — persists in Mindanao.

Calida cited official reports of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on “ongoing rebellion of the Daesh-Inspired groups and its local and foreign allies, particularly the Daulah Islamiyah (DI) and also of the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) forces in Mindanao.”

In February last year, the SC declared constitutional President Duterte’s extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao until Dec. 31, 2018.

The SC ruled: “The President and Congress had sufficient factual bases to extend Proclamation No. 216. The rebellion that spawned the Marawi incident persists. Public safety requires the extension, as shown by facts presented by the AFP” (Armed Forces of the Philippines).”

Martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao were first imposed by the President for 60 days on May 23, 2017 as a result of the attack in Marawi City by the Maute Group and its followers through Proclamation No. 216.

When challenged before the SC, the High Court ruled in July 2017 on the constitutionality of the President’s proclamation with a declaration that Proclamation No. 216 has sufficient factual bases.

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