Human rights lawyers file new petition vs Mindanao martial law extension

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 21 2019 12:33 PM | Updated as of Jan 21 2019 03:47 PM

MANILA - A group of human rights lawyers has filed another petition seeking to invalidate the third extension of martial law in Mindanao.

The group, which includes Christian Monsod, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, urged the Supreme Court to be proactive in determining the sufficiency of the factual bases for martial law extension and not rely on government information.

“It is within the duty of the Court to determine the sufficiency of the factual basis for the determination of martial law through independent inquiry, investigation, scrutiny and judgment. The Honorable Court cannot merely rely on the reports provided by the Executive,” the petitioners said in their 30-page petition filed on Friday.

“It is well within its power to compel the attendance of military officers or other key persons, and to direct the submission of proof as to the factual basis. It has been more than 1 ½ years that martial law has been declared over the whole of Mindanao. By this time, this Honorable Court will have more information and evidence to rely on, and not merely rely on what is submitted to it,” they added. 

Joining Monsod as petitioners were Ray Paolo Santiago, Nolasco Ritz Lee Santos, and Marie Hazel Lavitoria, the executive directors of rights groups Ateneo Human Rights Center, Balaod Mindanaw, and Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panlegal (SALIGAN), respectively. Law students Dominic Amon Ladeza and Xamantha Xofia Santos also signed the petition.

Named as respondents were the Senate represented by Senate President Vicente Sotto III, the House of Representatives represented by House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, the secretaries of the Department of National Defense and Department of the Interior and Local Government, the heads of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr.

Citing the President’s own letter to Congress asking for an extension of martial law in Mindanao, the petitioners said the situation in Mindanao has improved, not worsened.

They said that based on the deliberations of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, martial law can only be declared and extended when there is a “theater of war,” when government agencies within the local territory can no longer function.

“The factual situation present in Mindanao, which is the basis for the president to initiate the extension for martial law, and the Congress to approve, does not show that courts or the branches of civilian government are unable to carry out its functions,” they said.

This is the third petition filed against the third extension of martial law in Mindanao.

The "Magnificent 7" lawmakers led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman filed the first petition early this month. That petition has been set for oral arguments on Tuesday and Wednesday, January 22 and 23, but a source told ABS-CBN News the high court is moving the schedule of the oral arguments to next week in view of the new petition.

The Makabayan bloc, which filed the second petition against martial law extension in Mindanao, asked the high court on Friday to consolidate its petition with the Magnificent 7/Lagman petition.

The lawmakers also asked SC to allow them to take part in the oral arguments.

The high tribunal last week asked Congress to file its comment on the petition.

Congress, in a joint session in December, voted 235-28-1 in favor of extending martial law in Mindanao.