MANILA (5th UPDATE) - The Supreme Court has affirmed the third extension of martial law in Mindanao, dismissing the petitions filed by 4 different groups, a spokesman for the high tribunal said Tuesday.
The magistrates voted 9-4 to uphold the constitutionality of extending martial rule and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the south until end of 2019, said Brian Keith Hosaka, chief of the SC Public Information Office.
Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Marvic Leonen, Francis Jardeleza, and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa dissented.
Caguoia, the justice assigned to take charge of the martial law extension petitions, led the oral arguments on January 30.
But with Caguioa having voted along with the minority, Justice Carandang will now be the new ponente, Hosaka revealed.
Minority lawmakers led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, progressive representatives of the Makabayan bloc, human rights groups led by Constitution framer Christian Monsod, and a group of Lumad teachers and a student from Mindanao challenged the legality of the fresh extension.
Bayan Muna chairman Neri Colmenares, whose group is part of the Makabayan bloc, said with the decision, the Supreme Court "has once again stretched the boundaries of judicial interpretation."
"It paves the way for imposing martial law nationwide even if there is no threat to public safety," he said in a statement.
"For martial law, the Constitution requires actual invasion or rebellion, if the public safety requires it. Thus, even if rebellion exists, if public safety is not threatened, the president can use his calling out powers for the military to quell rebellion, not martial law," he added.
President Rodrigo Duterte first declared martial law in Mindanao following clashes in Marawi City between government forces and Islamic State-inspired militants.
The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the initial declaration and the 2 subsequent extensions.
Congress, in a joint session in December, voted 235-28-1 in favor of extending martial law in Mindanao for the third time, until the end of this year.
In arguing for the constitutionality of the extension, the government cited, among others, the bombing of a cathedral in Jolo, Sulu which killed at least 23 and injured about 100 more.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo welcomed the high court’s decision, saying it shows that the three branches of government “have forged a unified stand against the forces of rebellion and terrorism.”
“As we fast-track the rehabilitation of the war-torn Marawi and promote security and peace and order in Mindanao, we ask the Filipino nation not to waver in their support for our Republic’s defenders. Let us remain vigilant and prevail against these anti-democratic forces,” Panelo said in a statement. - with Mike Navallo and Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News