Memo to SC: Marawi siege an act of terrorism, not rebellion

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 19 2017 09:11 PM

A graffiti is seen on a wall of a back-alley as government soldiers continue their assault against the Maute group in Marawi City, Philippines June 12, 2017. Romeo Ranoco, Reuters

MANILA - The siege on Marawi City by local terror group Maute and its armed allies "was a planned terrorist offensive which is akin to an 'imminent danger' of rebellion” and not actual rebellion, which is one of two requirements, the other being invasion, under the 1987 Constitution, to warrant a declaration of martial law or suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

This was at the core of the memorandum submitted on Monday by minority congressmen, led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of three petitioners in a consolidated case pending before the Supreme Court (SC) assailing the sufficient factual bases for Proclamation No. 216 declaring martial law in Mindanao and suspending the privilege of the writ.

Petitioners argued that acts of terrorism “are not necessarily equivalent to actual rebellion and the consequent requirement of securing public safety to justify the assailed declaration and suspension,” adding that “terrorism is essentially politically neutral unlike rebellion.”

“The criminal essence of terrorism is ‘sowing and creating a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace, in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand.

"Rebellion has a culpable political purpose: removing the Philippines or a part thereof from allegiance to the republic or preventing the president or the legislature from exercising their powers and prerogatives,” the memorandum read, stressing that this culpable purpose is “utterly absent” in the case of the attacks on Marawi City and elsewhere in Mindanao.

President Rodrigo Duterte issued the assailed proclamation on May 23, hours after the local terrorists attacked the now war-torn city.

Petitioners argued the terroristic acts by the Maute group and its armed allies were government-initiated as defense and military officials admitted the same happened after an attempt by state forces to serve outstanding warrants of arrest on Abu Sayyaf Group-Basilan leader Isnilon Hapilon and Maute brothers Omar and Abdullah.

“[T]he alleged ‘siege' of Marawi City is actually an armed resistance by the Maute group to shield Hapilon from capture, not to overrun Marawi and remove its allegiance from the republic.

"No less than the President’s Report confirmed that 'On 23 May 2017, a government operation to capture Isnilon Hapilon, senior leader of the ASG, and Maute group operational leaders Abdullah and Omarkhayam Maute, was confronted with armed resistance which escalated into open hostility against the government,” the memorandum read.

The enumeration of facts in Proclamation No. 216 itself and the president’s subsequent Report to Congress do not constitute actual rebellion "in the absence of a credible showing that the culpable purpose of the said acts of terrorism is to remove Marawi City and other parts of Mindanao from allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines or deprive the President of his powers and prerogatives.”

Thus, these acts of atrocities by the Maute group and their allies may not be used as bases for the assailed executive issuance, petitioners explained.

“Moreover, the President is not deprived of any of his powers and prerogatives to maintain public order and safety in Mindanao because the channels of civilian and military command are open and working. The Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police and all the Local Government Units (LGUs) in the whole of Mindanao are operational,” the memorandum read.

'ESTABLISHMENT OF ISIS WILAYAH WILL NOT GERMINATE'

Government’s claims that Hapilon and the Maute group intend to establish an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) wilayah or province in Mindanao with Marawi City as its center "will not germinate,” according to petitioners, since apart from being “dwarfed” by state forces, the armed terrorists have not been concretely validated by ISIS.

"The design that the Maute and Abu Sayaf Groups are establishing an ISIS wilayah in Marawi City is another propaganda to attract the attention and support of ISIS. It is ironic that ISIS has not responded to this but the government has considered it a factual verity, thus making the government a purveyor of terrorist propaganda,” the memorandum read.

Petitioners argued that the only countries ISIS declared as part of its so-called caliphate are Kenya, Somalia, Nigeria, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

EFFICACY OF MARTIAL LAW CAN BE WAYLAID BY THE PRESIDENT

Petitioners concede that “[l]egally and constitutionally, the President cannot and does not wield or assume additional legitimate powers with the declaration of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus” and the military, likewise, "is not granted or vested with additional prerogatives to subdue lawless violence, invasion or rebellion” under both conditions.

Petitioners give credit to constitutional safeguards to ensure that a repeat of the dark days of martial rule under the Marcos regime does not happen again.

However, they assert that these safeguards "are only good, vibrant and fulfilling with a president who resolutely respects the Constitution and truly recognizes the separate inherent domain of the other co-equal branches of the government."

"Despite the Solicitor General’s repeated assurances to the honorable Supreme Court that the 'Duterte martial law' is different from the 'Marcos martial law,' his principal, President Rodrigo Duterte himself, unabashedly espouses a contrary position because he praised the Marcos-style martial law as 'very good' and asserted that his own version of martial law 'will not be any different from what President Marcos did' and he will be ‘harsh,’” the memorandum read.

Petitioners cited a Pulse Asia survey on December 6 to 11, 2016, prior to Duterte’s issuance of Proclamation No. 216, where 74% of respondents expressed opposition to its imposition, though the context of the survey question was not specified in the memorandum.