Lawmaker-petitioners slam SC affirmation of Mindanao martial law

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 04 2017 05:00 PM

MANILA - Petitioners who lost their case against President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of martial law in Mindanao on Tuesday warned of implications of the Supreme Court decision.

This as government welcomed the ruling, with Solicitor General Jose Calida saying it affirmed that there was a "real and present" rebellion in Mindanao.

Akbayan party-list Rep. Tom Villarin said the High Tribunal's majority ruling Tuesday was "a decision hyped by fear and insecurity," adding that it "puts back the 'imminent danger' principle into the equation."

His group warned that the affirmation of martial rule might lead to a "creeping authoritarian rule" in the guise of public safety and security.

"Now that he is cloaked with such authority, President [Rodrigo] Duterte might push it to the limit and declare a drug-induced nationwide rebellion by terror groups. Martial law becomes a hard habit to break," Villarin said.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the president's martial law declaration over all of Mindanao: 11 voted to affirm the President's act, three voted to limit the declaration only within Marawi City, and one voted against the proclamation.

The tribunal made the ruling on the 43rd day of the 60-day martial rule. Details of the decision has yet to be released. 

Villarin said that while the decision affirmed the high court's power to review the basis of the declaration, "the court left to the President the discretion and calibration of such declaration in a given context."

"The Marawi incident and the martial law declaration is now on its seventh week with no end in sight to finally neutralize the Maute terrorists. As things stand now under martial law, we are even facing a growing humanitarian crisis affecting close to 300,000 civilians," he said.

Another petitioner, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, said he would await the court's reasons in its decision before giving a comment. The lawmaker also signified that he would continue to vigorously oppose the declaration and its possible extension and expansion. 

"We also maintain that martial law must be subject to the people's scrutiny. Just like clockwork, the leadership has now proposed its extension," he said.

"This is one draconian step to institutionalizing a dictatorship and must be opposed by democracy defenders in Congress," he added.

For Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas, meanwhile, the Supreme Court ruling signals a "dark era" for Filipino women and the people, with the 3 branches of government supporting the declaration of the Mindanao-wide martial law, "which has only wrought destruction in Marawi and enabled worse military-sponsored rights violations across Mindanao." 

"With the SC backing of martial law, the military will be emboldened to carry out aerial strikes, indiscriminate firing and in using rape as a tool of war against civilians," she said.

"The decision sets the ground for the arbitrary declaration of a nationwide martial law, as it upheld the presence of rebellion based merely on inaccurate and fake reports by the military on an alleged siege of Marawi City by the Maute group last May 23," she said.

But for administration ally Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque, "the Court respected and acknowledged the information that is readily available to the executive, which the High Tribunal does not have access to."

"In the absence of its ability to discern for itself the factual basis for martial law, it should accord the executive the presumption of regularity of discharge of function, which in this case it did," he said.

Government forces and Islamic State-linked terror groups remain locked in battle in Marawi City since clashes began on May 23. As of 6 p.m. Monday, government recorded 461 fatalities, among them 337 terrorists, 85 government troops and 39 civilians.