“The legal and factual bases of the martial law extension have been clearly established based on the security assessment by our ground commanders,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement. PPD/Robinson Niñal Jr.

Palace says ready to defend before SC Duterte's extended martial law in Mindanao
(philstar.com) - December 28, 2017 - 8:04am

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Thursday said it is ready to face the Supreme Court to defend President Rodrigo Duterte’s extended martial law powers across Mindanao, after opposition lawmakers challenged the prolonged declaration before the tribunal.

With 240-27 vote at a joint session, it took Congress less than half a day to approve Duterte’s request to extend martial law in Mindanao until Dec. 31, 2018 and arrest suspected rebels there without charge.

“The legal and factual bases of the martial law extension have been clearly established based on the security assessment by our ground commanders,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.

“We are thus prepared to defend our position before the High Court,” he added.

In a petition, opposition congressmen led by Edcel Lagman of Albay have turned to the Supreme Court for help in contesting Congress’ decision to allow Duterte to extend martial law in Mindanao up to the end of 2018.

READ: Opposition challenges martial law before Supreme Court

The petitioners said there is no actual rebellion in Mindanao to justify the second extension of martial law.

They added that prolonging military rule by another year “defies the unequivocal intent and mandate of the Constitution of having a limited duration of martial law and its extension.”

The Constitution does not allow a series of extensions or re-extensions of a martial law proclamation, which may lead to “extensions in perpetuity,” Lagman and his colleagues stressed.

But according to Roque, the petitioners’ allegations of unlimited martial law extensions were “mere surmises and conjectures and not supported by law and the Constitution.”

“Martial law in perpetuity is a scenario that neither the President, Congress or the Supreme Court will allow as it is patently unconstitutional,” Roque said.

On May 23, Duterte imposed martial law in  Mindanao after the principal Islamic city of Marawi was stormed by heavily-armed, homegrown extremists who pledged allegiance to ISIS.

In July, Congress overwhelmingly voted to prolong military rule in Mindanao until yearend after the proclamation reached its 60-day constitutional limit, giving Duterte more time to stabilize the strife-torn region where ISIS was gaining influence.

In a rousing address to troops last October, Duterte declared Marawi liberated from terrorists after five months of fighting that gave state forces their first taste of urban warfare.

But in his letter to Congress, Duterte cited continuing threats of ISIS-inspired militants in seeking for an extension of martial law, adding that those who escaped the Marawi battle were actively recruiting and radicalizing those displaced by the fighting.

He also warned about heightened guerilla attacks following the collapse of peace talks between the government and communist rebels.

Martial law remains a sensitive issue in the Philippines after it was used by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970s to perpetuate himself to power.

Opponents feared Duterte might declare a nationwide martial law, but the authorities had repeatedly dismissed that.

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