MANILA - A group of Lumad teachers and a student from Mindanao filed on Wednesday the fourth petition questioning the extension of martial law in southern Philippines.
Teachers Rius Valle, Jhosa Mae Palomo and Jeany Rose Hayahay, and student Rorelyn Mandacawan asked the high court to look into “the sufficiency of the factual basis for the continued existence of martial law and the continued suspension of the privilege of writ of habeas corpus over the entire Mindanao.”
Represented by the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the petitioners is also asking the SC to issue a temporary restraining order to stop the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other para-military components of the AFP from allegedly forcibly closing lumad schools, harassing teachers and students, and militarizing areas where lumad schools are located.
Named as respondents in the petition were the Senate represented by Senate President Vicente Sotto III, the House of Representatives represented by Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, Jr., Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde.
It is the fourth petition filed challenging the 3rd extension of martial law in Mindanao following the petitions filed by the Magnificent 7 lawmakers, the Makabayan bloc and a group of human rights advocates led by Christian Monsod, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution.
The Supreme Court has set oral arguments on the petitions earlier filed on January 29 and 30, 2019. The Lumad petitioners seek to have their petition consolidated with the other petitions.
In their 13-page petition, the petitioners claimed they have personally experienced harassment as a consequence of the imposition and extension of martial law.
Valle, who is also the spokesperson of the Save Our Schools Network, said he had to flee Davao City and move to Metro Manila because of threats to his life, liberty and security.
Palomo claimed she was confronted by local government officials for allegedly teaching in an NPA (New People’s Army) school.
Hayahay, meanwhile, said her mother was abducted by the military for 18 days.
“Pinalaya na po siya pero paranoid, traumatized pa po siya dahil po may security risk po siya ngayon. Nasa isip po niya, what if babalikan siya, papatayin?” she told reporters.
“Kasi ‘yung abduction rampant po ‘yan sa Mindanao. Wala lang pong naglalakas-loob na ipahayag kasi nga pinapatay,” she added.
(She was released, but she became paranoid, still traumatized because of the security risk. She's thinking, what if the abductors return and kill her? Abduction is rampant in Mindanao. No one comes forward to speak because they are killed.)
Student Mandacawan also said he saw a member of paramilitary group Alamara fire 3 gunshots at a teacher.
The petitioners argued that the grant of "overbroad and undefined powers" to the AFP under General Order No. 1 which implements martial law "amounts to a roving commission to perform acts that may transgress rights and guarantees under the Constitution."
“Without clear standards and parameters, a wholesale acceptance of the sufficiency of the factual basis of the President’s proclamation of martial law will result in more instances of ‘red tagging,’ intimidation, harassment, and militarization,” they said.
“That the military and para-military have chosen to subject lumad schools to these measures is doubly deplorable as it violates the right of the lumad children to education,” they added.
The high court, in an earlier decision upholding the extension of martial law, had said that alleged human rights violations committed during the implementation of martial law should be resolved in a separate proceeding and not used as a basis for nullifying the extension of martial law.
Lawyer Chel Diokno, chair of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), counsel for petitioners, believes otherwise.
“When the human rights violations are a result of the ongoing militarization that came from the extension of martial law, then, these are relevant sa issue ng pag-e-extend ng martial law,” he told reporters after the filing of the petition.
"Kahit sabihin natin na dati in-affirm na ng ating Korte Suprema ‘yung unang pagdeklara ng martial law at ‘yung mga extension dati, iba pa rin ‘yung panibagong extension na ito, ‘yung pangatlo at kinakailangan pa rin na pag-aralang mabuti ng Korte Suprema kung talagang may factual basis ‘yan,” he added.
(Even if the Supreme Court affirmed the initial declaration of martial law and its extension, this third one is different and the tribunal needs to study if there is indeed factual basis for it.)
In their petition, petitioners cited the President’s own declaration that Marawi City has been liberated. The President used the Marawi siege and the Maute rebellion as bases for issuing Proclamation No. 216 which placed the entire Mindanao under martial law.
“By his own admission, there was no longer a reason to continue martial law based on the Maute occupation of Marawi. Proclamation No. 216, therefore, is now functus officio (of no further official authority or legal effect),” they said.
The petitioners also noted that the President himself acknowledged, in his letter to Congress justifying the martial law extension in December 2018, that the situation in Mindanao has improved, not worsened.
They pointed out the shift in the ground raised in justifying the extension – to address so-called communist terrorist groups and quell on-going rebellion in Mindanao.
“Significantly, the existence of ‘terrorism’ is not among the grounds to justify a proclamation of martial law or the extension of any existing proclamation,” they said, lamenting Congress’ supposed failure to perform its duty to determine whether there was sufficient basis to extend the original proclamation of martial law.
“Congress’ uncritical acceptance of the supposed need and ostensible basis for martial law have resulted in actions that directly contravene rights guaranteed under the 1987 Constitution. Petitioners’ situation is simply a sampling of many other situations directly arising from the needless implementation of martial law in Mindanao,” they added.