In this file photo, red ribbons are tied to the gate at the Supreme Court as a show of opposition against former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman, File photo
Rights lawyers ask SC to nullify martial law extension
Kristine Joy Patag ( - January 21, 2019 - 3:38pm

MANILA, Philippines — Human rights lawyers urged the Supreme Court to review the factual basis of President Rodrigo Duterte’s extension of martial law in Mindanao.

The lawyers, led by Christian Monsod, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order against the officers of the Congress and military to bar them from implementing Proclamation No. 216 that placed Mindanao under martial law.

Monsod was joined in the petition by members of the Ateneo Human Rights Center, Alternative Law Groups and Amnesty International Philippines. The petition is the third one challenging martial law extension before the SC.

The lawyers also asked the court to compel the government officials named as respondents in the petition to present proof on the factual basis of the year-long extension of martial law and, after inquiring into the basis, “declare such extension as unconstitutional, for lack of sufficient factual basis and nullify the same.”

They stressed: “[M]artial law is something which is not declared by the President but is in fact a reflection of the current state of things in the country at that particular time.”

Barangay election conducted in May 2018

The petitioners pointed out that the Commission on Elections was able to conduct a poll in Mindanao in May last year.

The Comelec initially postponed the barangay and sangguniang kabataan elections in Mindanao last 2017.

It decided to push back the poll due to “the confluence of findings by the SC and the Decision of both House of Congress” and that the “necessity of the imposition of martial law is inconsistent to the holding of free, orderly, honest, peaceful and credible elections in Mindanao.”

But the poll body held barangay elections in May 2018 despite ongoing martial law.

“In other words, the conditions or basis of martial law was no longer existing in Mindanao. Except that the Comelec had no power to lift it,” the petition read.

Justifications not allowed under Constitution

The petitioners also noted that Duterte, in his letter to Congress, justified another year-long extension of martial law “to sustain the gains we have achieved thus far, ensure the complete rehabilitation of the most affected areas and preserve the economic growth and development now happening in Mindanao.”

But they pointed out that these are justifications not allowed under the Constitution.

The Constitution dictates that the Philippines or any part of it may be placed under martial law “in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it.”

“Martial law is not about military operations, whatever is still existing in Mindanao, but about the sword of a takeover by the military of civilian functions. Is there any area in Mindanao where civilian authority is not functioning?” they added.

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