Oral arguments on 2 petitions vs. ML extension set Jan.16-17

MANILA -- The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday announced that the oral argument on the consolidated two petitions filed by opposition and lawmakers and human rights lawyers assailing the constitutionality of the full-year extension of martial law in Mindanao has been set on January 16 and 17.

SC spokesman Theodore Te announced the directive was issued following regular en banc session of the magistrates after having its recess due to holiday break.

The first petition was filed on Dec. 27 led by the opposition lawmakers bloc, led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) or a writ of preliminary injunction to stop the implementation of the challenged re-extension pending adjudication of their petition.

The other petitioners are Representatives Tomasito Villarin, Edgar Erice, Teddy Brawner Baguilat, Jr., Gary Alejano and Emmanuel Billones.

In their petition, the six opposition congressmen argued that there is no actual rebellion in Mindanao and that threats of violence and terrorism by remnants of terrorist groups do not constitute a constitutional basis for extension because imminent danger has been deleted as a ground for imposing martial law under the 1987 Constitution.

The second petition filed on Monday (Jan. 8) and was filed by National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) and party-list congressmen such as Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna), Emmie De Jesus (Gabriela), Arlene Brosas (Gabriela), Ariel Casilao (Anakpawis), Antonio Tinio (ACT Teachers), and Sarah Elago (Kabataan) said the extension would give way to alarmingly intensified and increased human rights violations allegedly aimed at quelling legitimate redress of grievances against the government.

It also said the martial rule was extended despite government admission that the Marawi siege is over in October last year.

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) is expected to represent the respondents led by President Rodrigo Duterte in the hearings.

Te said the Court also ordered the OSG to submit its comment to the second petition not later than 5 p.m. of January 13 with the comment to be personally served on counsel for the petitioners.

The parties are directed to submit their respective memorandum not later than 5 p.m. of January 20.

On Monday, the OSG asked the Supreme Court (SC) to dismiss the petition filed by opposition lawmakers assailing the constitutionality of the full-year extension of martial law in Mindanao.

In a 58-page comment, Solicitor General Jose Calida said the petition filed by the opposition lawmakers bloc, led by Lagman, must be dismissed due to lack of merit, noting that it was imputing grave abuse of discretion by Congress in extending the effectivity of martial law in Mindanao.

He stressed that the SC could not issue a TRO as prayed by petitioners because such injunctive relief would unduly interfere with the congressional power to extend the declaration of martial law by the President.

Calida also pointed out that petitioners failed to fulfill their burden of proving by evidence that there was no factual basis to extend martial law in Mindanao and that Congress acted contrary to the Constitution in approving the extension.

He also cited technical ground for the dismissal of the petition, particularly the "terrible blunder" of petitioners of not attaching the assailed joint resolution of Congress in their petition.

Named respondents are Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno and Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief-of-Staff General Rey Leonardo Guerrero.

On Dec. 13, a total of 240 members of Congress voted to approve to extend martial law in Mindanao, while only 27 voted against it. The approved extension took effect on Jan. 1, 2018 until Dec. 31, 2018.

In a 240-27 vote, both chambers of Congress voted to approve Duterte's request to extend the declaration of martial law in Mindanao until the end of 2018.

The high court had previously voted to affirm the constitutionality of Mr. Duterte's Proclamation No. 216, which placed the entire Mindanao under martial law until Dec. 31 following the violent attack of the Islamic State-allied Maute terror group in Marawi City on May 26.

Source: Philippine News Agency