MANILA -- "Anyone who says there is no ongoing rebellion in Mindanao is either ignorant of the factual situation there, or protective of the longest rebellion that has plagued our country."
This was the comment of Solicitor General Jose Calida on the opposition lawmakers belonging to the "Magnificent 7" bloc who filed a petition before the Supreme Court assailing the constitutionality of the full-year extension of martial law in Mindanao.
“Do the petitioners know better than the President and the overwhelming majority of members of Congress who approved the extension of martial law in Mindanao? Definitely not,” Calida said in a text message to reporters.
In a 240-27 vote, both chambers of Congress voted to approve Duterte’s request to extend the declaration of martial law in Mindanao until the end of 2018.
Calida explained that Congress’ vote declaring the extension as valid was a political process.
“The congressional imprimatur on the validity of the extension is a political question that has been resolved by the legislature,” the solicitor general said.
Last Wednesday, the petitioners led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman also asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) or a writ of preliminary injunction to stop the implementation of the challenged re-extension pending adjudication of their petition.
The other petitioners are Representatives Tomasito Villarin, Edgar Erice, Teddy Brawner Baguilat, Jr., Gary Alejano and Emmanuel Billones.
In a 29-page petition, the lawmakers said there is "no actual rebellion in Mindanao" to justify the re-extension of martial rule in the southern region.
They also argued that the Constitution requires an actual state of rebellion, not just mere threats, for such proclamation of martial rule.
"Threats of violence and terrorism by remnants of vanquished terrorist groups do not constitute a constitutional basis for extension of martial law because “imminent danger” has been deleted as a ground for imposing martial law under the 1987 Constitution," the petitioners said.
The petitioners said President Rodrigo Duterte's request for martial law extension was approved "baselessly and with inordinate haste", noting that the period of deliberation and interpellation was "unduly constricted" by both the House and Senate leadership.
They said the period of one year defies the intent of the Constitution considering that the provision only specifies a period of 60 days for the declaration of martial law.
The petitioners also said the President has the power to call out the military to prevent and subdue lawlessness by remnants of terrorist groups without extending the martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao.
The petitioners likewise asked the Supreme Court to accord judicial notice to the joint approval by both Houses of the Congress of the re-extension because until now a copy of the enrolled joint resolution is not available.
Named respondents are Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno and Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief-of-Staff General Rey Leonardo Guerrero.
Earlier this month, Calida, the government’s top lawyer, scored legal victories in the Supreme Court after a majority of the justices voted in favor of President Duterte’s declaration of martial law and affirmed their decision with finality.
The SC’s 82-page landmark decision, penned by Associate Justice Mariano Del Castillo, said that the 1987 Constitution grants Duterte the prerogative to put any part of the country under martial rule.
“There is no constitutional edict that martial law should be confined only in the particular place where the armed public uprising actually transpired,” the SC declared. (PNA)