MANILA - The government’s top lawyer on Friday said the administration is ready to defend the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, amid criticisms that President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to impose it was an overreaction.
Solicitor General Jose Calida said the martial law declaration in Mindanao has “substantial and factual” bases and the government is prepared to defend before the high court.
“The facts are very substantial. If any citizen will challenge it in the Supreme Court I am confident we will be able to prove there was substantial, factual basis [for its declaration],” Calida told reporters.
“The Constitution says any citizen can go to the Supreme Court and they have the right to do so. However, the Office of the Solicitor General will be defending the Republic of the Philippines and the President when this matter goes up to the Supreme Court.
Military troops were pursuing bandits from Maute group while on a mission to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, the suspected leader of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia, when the terror group took hostages and laid siege to parts of the city on Tuesday.
This prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to place Mindanao under martial law, citing the "rebellion" committed by the terrorists when it raised Islamic State flags around the city.
Duterte's decision to place Mindanao under martial law, however, was not welcomed by some groups, who feared abuses might be committed by the military in the implementation of martial rule.
A CNN Philippines report earlier said a group of Muslim lawyers was planning to oppose Duterte’s martial law declaration before the SC.
Calida said the president can justify his declaration, although
things are more complicated due to the alleged involvement of the Islamic State, which he said wants to establish a caliphate in Southeast Asia through Hapilon.
The Constitution allows the declaration of martial law in instances of invasion or rebellion.
“What’s happening in Mindanao is no longer a rebellion of Filipino citizens. It has transmogrified into invasion by foreign terrorists who heeded the clarion call of the ISIS to go to the Philippines if they find difficulty in going to Iraq or Syria,” Calida said.
“Given the above clear and present dangers and atrocities happening in Mindanao, specially in Marawi City, it is the President’s constitutional duty to unsheathe the Republic’s sword of martial law to crush the rebellion that threatens to divide our country.”
The military said at least 31 suspected terrorists have been killed since the clashes erupted Tuesday. Some of these fatalities include Singaporean, Indonesian and Malaysian nationals.