SC orders gov't to answer petition vs Mindanao martial law extension

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 29 2017 04:04 PM | Updated as of Dec 29 2017 06:00 PM

Military vehicles carrying government troops drive along the main highway of Pantar, Lanao Del Norte as they traveled to reinforce troops in Marawi City. Firefights in the city ended on October 23 but President Rodrigo Duterte sought a second extension of martial law over Mindanao until next year citing remaining security threats. Romeo Ranoco, Reuters

MANILA (UPDATE) - The Supreme Court on Friday ordered top officials of the Duterte administration to comment on a petition seeking to halt the year-long extension of martial law in Mindanao.

In an en banc order, the High Court directed Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Rey Leonardo Guerrero and Solicitor General Jose Calida to comment on the petition within 10 days of receipt of the order.

Led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, opposition lawmakers on Wednesday questioned the constitutionality of the martial law extension in Mindanao to 2018 before the Supreme Court.

The petitioners asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) or a writ of preliminary injunction to stop the second extension of martial law pending deliberations on their plea.

The petition questioned the basis of the second martial law extension saying there was no actual rebellion in Mindanao, among other grounds. 

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo meanwhile expressed confidence that the petition would be dismissed, saying there is factual and legal basis for the extension. 

"We are confident that the petition will be dismissed by the Supreme Court as there is factual basis as well as legal for the one-year extension of martial law in Mindanao. There remains an on-going rebellion in other parts of Mindanao even if the rebellion has been suppressed in Marawi City," he said in a statement.

Lawmakers earlier this month approved President Rodrigo Duterte's request to extend martial law in Mindanao for another year to quell remaining security threats in the region. 

It was the second extension of martial rule, first imposed on May 23 after firefights between Islamic State-inspired extremists and state troops erupted in Marawi City. 

Duterte had first requested an extension of his initial 60-day martial law declaration until the end of this year. He again sought to extend martial rule over Mindanao until next year despite the end of the conflict in Marawi City citing remaining threats. 

The President said the fresh extension would help state forces better deal with lawless armed groups and ensure public safety. Other officials had pushed for the extension saying it would ensure security during rebuilding efforts in Marawi City. 

The Supreme Court had affirmed in July Duterte's initial martial law declaration in a majority vote.