Mindanawons ask SC to stop martial law extension

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — Teachers, volunteers and residents of Mindanao on Wednesday petitioned the Supreme Court to stop the implementation of  martial law, which has been extended three times, in their region.

Rius Valle, Jhosa Mae Palomo, Jeany Rose Hayahay and Rorelyn Mandacawan filed a petition seeking the nullification of President Rodrigo Duterte’s third extension of martial law across Mindanao.

The Free Legal Assistance Group, led by human rights lawyer and senatorial candidate Chel Diokno, led the filing on Wednesday morning.

As residents of Mindanao, petitioners stressed before the court that they are directly affected by the continuing martial law. They asked the court to look into the sufficiency of the factual basis of the continued martial law and suspension of writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao.

The petitioners also asked the court to issue a halt order against the "displacement of lumad school children and the harassment and intimidation of parents and teachers."

Prior to the extension of martial law until the end of 2019, advocates of prolonging the supposedly emergency measure, said opposition to it only came from those in Luzon.

"We were shown the sentiments of the different provincial governors and majority said they wanted martial law to stay in the whole of Mindanao," Carlito Galvez, then chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, also said in November 2018. Galvez has since retired and been appointed as presidential adviser on the peace process.

Lumad schools affected

The petitioners said that lumad schools have been greatly affected by the continued martial law rule in the region, parts of which have already had a heavy military presence even before the 2017 siege of Marawi City by terrorists.

Martial law was declared in response to the siege and extended partly to deal with remnants of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf terror groups said to still be in rebellion against the government.

“Petitioners experienced first-hand the effects of the overbroad, undefined and unchecked powers of the AFP and its paramilitary assistants,” they said.

Valle, spokesperson of the Save Our Schools Network—a group of institutions to defend the rights of children and indigenous peoples to education—narrated that he had to flee Mindanao due to a "worsening of the political situation" there.

He claimed that the he noticed “an alarming increase in enforced disappearances, illegal arrests and detention of human rights defenders, and forced and fake surrenders to the military in Mindanao.”

Palomo, meanwhile, said that she was tagged as a teacher of a school for the New People’s Army when she said she is a volunteer teacher with the Center for Lumad Advocacy, Networking, and Services.

"That the military and paramilitary have chosen to subject lumad schools to these measures is doubly deplorable as it violates the right of the lumad children to education,” they added.

The 1987 Constitution holds that the president also serves as the commander-in-chief and has power over the armed forces "to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion."

The Constitution also grants the president the power to declare martial law over the Philippines or an area in the country “in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it.”

Petitioners said that "without clear standards and parameters, a wholesale acceptance of the sufficiency of the factual basis of the president’s proclamation of martial law will result in more instances of ‘red tagging,’ intimidation, harassment, and militarization."

Rights groups have repeatedly stressed that red-tagging, or linking individuals to communist groups and declaring them enemies of the state, endanger their lives.

"Congress’ uncritical acceptance of the supposed need and ostensible basis for martial law [has] resulted in actions that directly contravene rights guaranteed under the 1987 Constitution. Petitioners’ situation is simply a sampling of many other situations directly arising from the needless implementation of martial law in Mindanao," they added.

Fourth petition vs martial law

The Mindanawons’ petition is the fourth filed against Duterte’s latest request to extend the martial law rile in Mindanao.

They join the petition filed by the House of Representatives’ “Magnificent 7,” by the Makabayan bloc and by human rights lawyers.

FLAG lawyers also asked the court to consolidate theirs with other pending petitions on the same issue.

The Supreme Court earlier consolidated the three petitions and set oral arguments on January 29 and 30 for oral arguments.

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