MANILA - The Makabayan bloc on Wednesday filed the second petition questioning the constitutionality of the 3rd extension of martial law in Mindanao.
In a 39-page petition, the Makabayan legislators argued that the government has failed to prove that public safety requires a military take over in Mindanao.
“What additional power do they wish to exercise in order to quell the claimed rebellion?” the lawmakers asked.
“Any other interpretation of the public safety requirement allows the government to impose martial law on the mere claim that rebellion exists since, government can always assert that rebellion inherently threatens public safety,” they added.
The Makabayan bloc is composed of House Representatives Carlos Isagani Zarate of Bayan Muna, Emmi De Jesus and Arlene Brosas of Gabriela, Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis, Antonio Tinio and France Castro of ACT Teachers and Sarah Jane Elago of Kabataan partylist.
Named as respondents are President Rodrigo Duterte, Congress of the Philippines represented by Senate President Vicente Sotto III and House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, Jr., and Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Albayalde.
The Makabayan bloc’s petition follows a similar petition filed earlier this month by the Magnificent 7 lawmakers led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman.
The Magnificent 7 solons argued that there is no factual basis for the extension of martial law in Mindanao, the third since Mr. Duterte issued Proclamation No. 216 in 2017 placing Mindanao under military rule.
The Office of the Solicitor General on Tuesday filed its comment seeking the dismissal of Lagman’s petition insisting that rebellion persists in Mindanao and that Congress has the sole prerogative to decide whether or not to extend military rule in the island and for how long.
The Makabayan bloc’s petition focused on the lack of sufficient factual basis for the third extension of martial law.
They argued, the only additional power that the President can exercise with the imposition of martial law is the military takeover of civilian positions in government but which is not necessary because civilian government continues to function in all of Mindanao.
The lawmakers cited President Duterte’s own letter to Congress in December 2018 which claimed significant government successes in reducing, neutralizing, dismantling and weakening the rebels, as well as in reducing the number of atrocities and crime incidence.
“These very pronouncements, assuming to be true, strip the government of any right to request to further extend the imposition of martial law in the Mindanao region. Otherwise, why is government asking this Honorable Court to grant or extend its martial law powers and give it the option to replace civilian functions? It cannot be for psychological purposes,” they said.
“These very pronouncements negate any claim that public safety requires the continued implementation of Proclamation No. 216 in the Mindanao region,” they added.
The lawmakers pointed out that the rebellion that requires the imposition of martial law is different from the rebellion where the President may exercise his calling out powers.
The calling out powers under the Constitution allows the President to ask the armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion.
On the other hand, the declaration of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus may only be done in cases of invasion or rebellion and when public safety requires it.
The lawmakers urged the high court to define “public safety” in accordance with the intent under the Constitution as they claimed that it is public safety which should be the most decisive element in the martial law powers of the President.
“If there is rebellion or invasion but government continues to function nonetheless, the calling out powers may be employed by the President, but not martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. Only in cases where the rebellion or invasion has made it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the government (or the courts) to function, to the extent that government or the local government in the area affected by the rebellion can no longer assure public safety and the delivery of government services, that the imposition of martial law is constitutionally permissible,” they argued.
The lawmakers took issue with the government’s position that rebellion in Mindanao “persists” when the very grounds cited under Proclamation No. 216 – the Maute rebellion and the Marawi City siege – have long been resolved.
“Considering that the actual rebellion for which the Proclamation No. 216 was issued has ceased, there is no longer cause or basis for its further extension. There is no persisting actual rebellion in the entire Mindanao,” they said.
In addition, the Makabayan bloc argued that Congress failed to exercise its power and duty to check the martial law powers of the President when it voted 235-28-1 in favor of extending martial law in Mindanao despite factual errors, inconsistencies, and lack of transparency during the joint session in Congress in December 2018.
They also asked the high tribunal to consider the impact of martial law on human rights in Mindanao, claiming that human rights abuses intensified and escalated in Mindanao during the second extension of martial law for the whole of 2018.
They cited reports and statements prepared by rights group Karapatan, the International Fact Finding and Solidary Mission, and the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights.
The SC en banc on Tuesday impleaded Congress in Lagman’s petition and has ordered it to file its comment within 5 days. The high court has also set the oral arguments on January 22 and 23.