The continuation of martial law in Marawi City could lead to further erosion of human rights and civil liberties in the lakeside town whose center was decimated by a five-month battle between soldiers and Islamist militants.

AP/Bullit Marquez, File
Palace: Martial law extension has 'legal, factual basis'
Audrey Morallo ( - January 12, 2018 - 6:08pm

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang is confident about the constitutionality of the one-year extension of martial law in Mindanao as it believes that the declaration has enough factual and legal basis.

In a press briefing in Bukidnon, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the palace welcomed the filing of another Supreme Court petition by former Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Loretta Anne Rosales seeking the nullification of the extension of military rule in Mindanao until Dec. 31, 2018.

Roque however insisted that the extension had solid legal basis considering that both the executive and legislative branches had found sufficient reason to extend martial law, which was first declared on May 23, 2017 by President Rodrigo Duterte after militants inspired by the Islamic State group tried to transform Marawi City into the center of the terror network's province in Southeast Asia.

"The declaration of martial law, the extension for a year, enjoys overwhelming presumption of constitutionality given that both the executive and the legislative branches of government have found both legal and factual basis for the declaration of martial law," Roque said.

"Of course we welcome the filing of the suit because that is also the right of every citizen under the 1987 Constitution," he added.

The petition of Rosales, represented by former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, is the third to question the extension before the Supreme Court.

In her petition, she said that there was no reason for the extension as the Philippine military already had enough powers to deal with the remaining terror forces in Mindanao.

Rosales also stressed that placing Mindanao under martial law posed "the most severe threat to civil liberties."

Human rights activists and groups have warned that the continuation of martial law in Mindanao, even after the defeat of the terror groups and the liberation of Marawi City, could further lead to more violations of human rights.

A report by the human rights watchdog Amnesty International accused the Philippine military of abuses during the five-month battle in the lakeside town, alleging that some soldiers subjected some fleeing residents to torture.

A petition by opposition lawmakers and the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers warned that the martial law extension could "open the floodgates to further attacks against just anybody."

Following martial law's declaration in May, it was extended in July until the end of 2017 as the fighting was still raging at the heart of the lakeside town.

Duterte declared the liberation of Marawi in October, but in a letter to Congress, he sought the extension of military rule for another year due to the threat posed by the remnants of terror groups as well as the rebellion of communist rebels.

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