Calida insists rebellion exists in Mindanao

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Calida insists rebellion exists in Mindanao
In this file photo, soldiers man a checkpoint on a highway in Maguindanao province.
Philstar.com / John Unson, File photo

MANILA, Philippines — Solicitor General Jose Calida insisted before the Supreme Court that President Rodrigo Duterte’s year-long extension of martial law in Mindanao has factual basis as rebellion still exists in the region.

Calida on Tuesday filed the government’s comment on the opposition lawmakers’ petition challenging the factual basis of Duterte’s third extension of martial law in the southern region.

He asked the Supreme Court to junk Rep. Edcel Lagman and six other lawmakers’ petition due to lack of merit.

In his comment, Calida reiterated that “[t]he issue of whether such rebellion persists had been determined by the executive department and approved by the legislative department, two of the three co-equal branches of the government.”

The “Magnificent 7” argued in their petition that the “public safety is not imperilled” as “rebellion does not exist and persist in Mindanao.”

Duterte placed the entire region of Mindanao under martial law in May 2017 through Proclamation No. 216.

The government has since extended it until the end of 2017. Duterte later pushed for another year-long extension for 2018.

Lagman challenged both moves of the government before the SC but the tribunal has upheld the constitutionality of Proclamation No. 216 and its subsequent year-long extension.

On December 12, the Congress voted 235-28 and approved Duterte’s request to extend martial law for 2019.

‘Despite gains in 2018, rebellion continues to exist’

The government’s chief lawyer, however, argued that Duterte specifically mentioned in his letter to the Congress that there were at least four bombings in 2018 and violent incidents committed by the Abu Sayyaf Group and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

“In the said letter, President Duterte mentioned that although there were gains during the period of extension of martial law in 2018, the AFP and the PNP highlighted certain essential facts indicating that rebellion still exists in Mindanao,” Calida said.

Calida also mentioned that the New People’s Army, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, “continues to rise publicly and take up arms against the government.”

The solicitor general pointed out that the SC has earlier recognized that the NPA has the “shared purpose of overthrowing the duly constituted government” with terrorist groups.

The Department of Justice is pushing for the declaration of members of the Communist Party of the Philippines as terrorists before a Manila court. State prosecutors, however, has since cut down their list that initially included 649 names to just eight.

“Considering the magnitude of scope, as well as the presence of rebel groups in Mindanao, public safety remains endangered and the security of Mindanao is at stake,” Calida added.

The tribunal has set the case for oral arguments on January 22 and 23.

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