MANILA - A former lawmaker and one of the petitioners questioning the third extension of martial law in Mindanao on Tuesday asked the government not to invoke the recent Jolo bombing in justifying the martial law extension.
“Sana hindi ito gamitin ng gobyerno at parang not in the name of the victims of the Jolo bombing to justify the extension,” former Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares told the media ahead of the oral arguments.
“May martial law na nga sila, pero nangyari pa ito. Ang sabi namin dito, lahat ng ginagawa ninyo, you could exercise that under your calling out powers,” he said.
Colmenares explained that the government has all the powers to address the bombing in Jolo, just as it had done so in the Zamboanga siege and Marawi incident.
“Hindi ‘yun issue ng wala kayong poder. Kasi may poder sila against terrorism. In fact, ‘yun nga ang rason nila bakit nila pinasa ang Anti-Terrorism Law tapos sasabihin nila kailangan namin ng martial law,” he said.
“The basic question to be asked to the respondents, the Solicitor General, what specific martial law power do you really need to contend with the terrorists? Wala naman silang ma-add. Kasi every power they are exercising now is power they can exercise kahit walang martial law. So what is this martial law for?” he added.
Colmenares said the high court should set the standard for the definition of “public safety” that will justify the imposition and extension of martial law.
“That standard must be, public safety requires it. Meaning to say, governments and courts can no longer function effectively therefore kailangan mag-impose ng martial law. Anything less than that, for us, there is no legal or constitutional basis for the imposition of martial law,” he said.
The government eventually used the Jolo bombing as one of the incidents justifying the extension.
Solicitor General Jose Calida even mentioned reports that one of the perpetrators was a suicide bomber when he was interpellated by Justice Jose Reyes, Jr.
But the military had earlier clarified it was not a suicide bomber but a woman who left a bag of improvised explosive device in the Jolo cathedral which caused the explosion.
The improvised explosive device (IED) was believed to have been remotely detonated, according to Armed Forces of the Philippines Public Affairs chief Col. Noel Detoyato.
Colmenares clarified that while the Jolo bombing is condemnable and the perpetrators should be caught, this can be done without resorting to martial law extension.
“Ang sinasabi namin, you don’t even need martial law para hulihin sila. Kasi kahit walang martial law, pag may gumawa ng bombings, under the law, pwede niyong hulihin,” he said.
Colmenares is part of the Makabayan bloc which questioned the third extension of martial law in Mindanao.
Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, who represents the Magnificent 7, said the Jolo bombing should not be cited as justification because it came after the decision to extend martial law in Mindanao was made.
Lawyer Christian Monsod, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution and who also represents a group of human rights advocates, for his part said that the SC should consider postponement of May elections as one of the effects should it decide to uphold the extension of martial law in Mindanao.
“If the Supreme Court finds that there is still a basis for extending martial law, then the elections in 2019 May and any plebiscite arising from any change in the Constitution must be postponed. Because the basis of the causes for declaring martial law are the same causes for postponing elections under section 5 of the Omnibus Election Code and according to the Comelec, in postponing the barangay elections in Mindanao in September 2017, that the basis for martial law is inconsistent with the holding of free, honest, credible and peaceful elections,” he explained.
Apart from the Magnificent 7, Makabayan bloc and the group of human rights advocates, the Lumad from Mindanao represented by the Free Legal Assistance Group also filed a petition questioning the martial law in Mindanao extension.
Only the representatives of the Magnificent 7 and the Lumad were called by the magistrates to argue during the oral arguments.