MANILA - The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) filed its comment on three more petitions that seek to invalidate the one year extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao, ahead of the oral arguments on Tuesday.
Solicitor General Jose Calida argued that petitioners failed to establish grave abuse of discretion on the part of the House of Representatives and Senate in extending the effectivity of Proclamation No. 216, which placed the entire southern Philippine region under the extraordinary measures.
“Proclamation No. 216 and the subsequent extensions granted by the Congress enjoy the presumption of constitutionality. Indisputably, Section 18 of Article VII 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 shall be extended,” Calida said in a 63-page comment.
Calida pointed out that unlike in the first instance, when martial law was first declared on May 23, 2017 for a period of 60 days, there is no need for the executive department to show sufficiency of factual basis for the extension.
The top government lawyer nevertheless stressed there is sufficient factual basis for the second extension. The first extension was up to December 31, 2017.
“Before the end of December 31, 2017, AFP General Rey Leonardo B. Guerrero wrote a letter to President Rodrigo Duterte recommending the further extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao for twelve months beginning on January 1, 2018. The request was based on the AFP’s current security assessment,” Calida said.
“Secretary Delfin Lorenzana also wrote a letter to President Duterte dated December 1, 2017, wherein he also recommended the extension of martial law,” he added.
Calida explained that there is “an ongoing rebellion in Mindanao,” as a response to petitioners’ argument that the rebellion in Marawi City by local terror group Maute group and its sympathizers has already been quelled.
“Marawi is not the entire Mindanao. The liberation of Marawi did not signal the end of rebellion in Mindanao… Although the leadership of the Mautes was decimated in Marawi, the rebellion in Mindanao persists as the surviving members of the militant group have not laid down their arms.'
“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 – are waging rebellion in Mindanao,” Calida said, as he stressed that the state of rebellion in Mindanao was already affirmed by the high court when it sustained President Duterte’s original declaration of martial law.
He added that apart from the communist rebels, other groups such as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Ansarul Khilafah Philippines (AKP), DI Maguid, and DI Turaifie should also be factored in the rebellion.
Calida also explained that “[t]he proclamation of martial law is a matter entirely different from its extension” in that its declaration is an act of the President while its extension “is the prerogative of the Congress.” This is why President Rodrigo Duterte should not have been named as one of the respondents in the petitions, he pointed out.
The petitioners against the one year extension of martial rule are the group of minority lawmaker led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, members of the Makabayan bloc at the House of the Representatives, former Commission on Human Rights chairperson Etta Rosales, and Christian Monsod.