SolGen asks SC to dismiss consolidated petitions vs. ML extension

MANILA -- The Office of Solicitor General (OSG) asked the Supreme Court (SC) to dismiss the last three petitions assailing the constitutionality of the full-year extension of martial law in Mindanao.

This, after the high court has consolidated all four petitions seeking to declare as unconstitutional the one-year extension given to martial law in Mindanao.

The SC made the announcement in its official Twitter post after two of the four petitions were filed on Friday.

With this consolidation, the SC is set to conduct oral arguments for all four petitions on Tuesday at 2 p.m. and Wednesday at 10 a.m..

The OSG is expected to represent the respondents led by President Rodrigo Duterte in the oral arguments.

In a 63-page comment, Solicitor General Jose Calida said the three petitions filed by Lumad leader Eufemia Campos Cullamat, human rights groups and militant groups; former Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales; and the group led by Christian Monsod, who was one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution must be dismissed due to lack of merit, noting the proclamation of martial law was a matter entirely different from its extension.

The declaration of martial law is an act of the President. The extension, on the other hand, is the prerogative of the Congress, Calida said.

It follows that the judicial review of the proclamation of martial law is different from judicial review of the extension, he said.

According to Calida, the President requests the martial law extension but it is the Congress that extends martial law, if it finds that invasion or rebellion persists and public safety requires it.

In view of the presumption of constitutionality accorded to the extension of martial law, it is incumbent upon all the petitioners to overturn the presumption, meaning, show facts that the extension is without basis, Calida opined.

These Petitions rail against the extension of the martial law because Marawi has been liberated, and there is no rebellion, or the communist rebellion in Mindanao allegedly does not endanger public safety to warrant the extension and suspension, Calida said.

It should be noted that Marawi is not the entire Mindanao. The liberation of Marawi did not signal the end of the rebellion in the whole of Mindanao, said the solicitor general.

The Supreme Court has already recognized in Lagman v. Medialdea that there are other rebel groups in Mindanao that have launched offensives. Because of the widespread atrocities in Mindanao and the linkages established among rebel groups, the armed uprising in Marawi cannot be equated with the rebellion in the other parts of Mindanao, he explained.

Calida further argued that it is not the place of the Petitioners to dictate on the President as to which Commander-in-Chief power is most appropriate in dealing with the ongoing rebellion.

Due deference must be made to the judgment call of the President, as it is based on vital, relevant, classified, and live information not ordinarily available to the public. The President is privy to such sensitive data, release or publication of which could do more harm than good, Calida said, addressing Petitioners' contention that martial law is unnecessary.

Apart from disregarding the Supreme Court's earlier ruling, Petitioners also want the Court to believe that communist rebellion is not detrimental to public safety, notwithstanding the numerous attacks made on civilians in the name of the Marxist ideology, Calida added.

The first petition was filed last December 27 by a group of congressman led by Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman.

This was followed last January 8 by the group led by Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate and Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao.

Rosales filed the petition last Friday (January 12) morning followed by another in the afternoon from the group of Monsod and Dinagat Islands Rep. Kaka Bag-ao.

The four petitions were echoing the same arguments that there was no longer factual basis to extend martial law and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao since President Rodrigo Duterte already declared last October that Marawi City � the center of skirmishes between government troops and ISIS-inspired Maute group � had been liberated.

Also named respondents in the four petitions were Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Interior and Local Government officer-in -charge Eduardo AAo, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa and Armed Forces 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 would take effect beginning Jan. 1, 2018 until Dec. 31, 2018.

In December last year, the high court upheld with finality the constitutionality of President Duterte's declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

The SC's 82-page landmark decision, penned by Associate Justice Mariano Del Castillo, said that the 1987 Constitution grants Duterte the prerogative to put any part of the country under martial rule.

Source: Philippine News Agency