WATCH | Makabayan bloc files petition vs year-long extension of martial law in Mindanao


MANILA – The Makabayan bloc of lawmakers was in full force Monday at the Supreme Court, where they filed a petition to stop the enforcement of a year-long extension of martial law in Mindanao.

According to the left-leaning lawmakers, the martial law extension has no factual and legal basis.

The petitioners asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order on the extension of martial law and conduct an investigation and judicial determination into whether there is basis for the President’s order, which the House of Representatives and the Senate, voting separately during a joint session, had approved.

The petitioners warned that if the SC also throws its support behind the martial law extension, it is not far-fetched to expect that the President would be emboldened to declare a nationwide martial law.

The petitioners against the martial law extension (from L): NUPL chairman Neri Colmenares, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus, Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr., ACT Rep. France Castro, Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao, Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas, Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago, ACT Rep. Antonio Tinio and lawyers Minverva Lopez and Kathy Panguban are seen after filing the petition questioning the yearlong extension of martial law in Mindanao at the Supreme Court. (HANDOUT PHOTO FROM BAYAN)

The petitioners argued that the Marawi siege that began with the attack of the Maute-led local terrorist groups on May 23, 2017, had ended and there is no need for martial law to maintain order in the Islamic city and neighboring areas.

The group warned that violations of human rights would only increase and worsen, since the target of a martial law extension are the critics of the administration.

Former party-list representative Neri Colmenares, now chairperson of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, said since there is no factual basis for the extension, the order should be deemed void. The second point that must be reckoned, Colmenares added, is why did officials extend martial law if it is not necessary? “The reason for this is, to target – not the rebels they cite – but the dissenters and opposition and institutions or persons who do not agree with the President.”

For her part, Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas, pointed out that the call-out provision to the military is in place, so there is no need for extending martial law. “This is a means to pressure the opposition. What are impaired are the civil and political rights of people.” She said civilian supremacy should prevail.

Respondents in the Makabayan petition are President Rodrigo Duterte and the Congress leaders who approved the President’s declaration – Senate President Koko Pimentel and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

The petition said “the two houses of Congress committed grave abuse of discretion in allowing the extension of martial law and the continued suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the entire Mindanao.”

The leaders of the two chambers abused their power with the haphazard approval of martial law extension.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said, “it is plain to see no debate took place. The Executive and the millitary were just told to report, but there was no debate. The approval of the extension by one year was rushed. We will return to the Supreme Court our continuing questions against extension.”

Colmenares warned: “Ang papupuntahan nito kapag inaprubahan ng Korte Suprema, ay napakaluwag ng deklarasyon ng martial law. Hindi malayong magkaroon tayo ng martial law everyday, seven days a week. Kasi mag-allege ka lang na may rebelde, tapos na agad [If the SC approves this extension, we will have a very lax regime for declaring martial law. It won’t be far-fetched for us to have martial law everyday, seven days a week. All you have to do is to allege there are rebels, and that’s it].”

He noted that the first martial law extension decision approved by the court could at least fall back on the fact that the war was still going on in Marawi, and “the government really used this to scare people into thinking we need martial law. But now, there is no longer any war.”

It is the second petition against a martial law extension filed by the lawmakers.

Earlier, the so-called Magnificent 7 congressmen led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman filed a petition against the first 90-day extension.

Malacañang Palace, meanwhile, is confident it can defend martial law in Mindanao.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque noted that the Senate and House of Representatives had decided there is legal and factual basis for martial law. Moreover, he added, no abuses during the martial law period were recorded, so the government can clearly defend this.

The solicitor general, in his earlier comment to the Supreme Court when the Lagman group filed the petition questioning the first extension, had asserted there is legal and factual basis for the martial law extension.

The petitioners, said SolGen Jose Calida, had failed to show that the rebellion has been completely quelled.

The OSG said the petitioners failed to prove there is no factual basis for martial law.

The OSG comment also pointed out that “the manner by which Congress approved the extension of martial law is a political question and is not reviewable by this honorable court.”

The SC cannot also review the manner by which Congress approved the martial law extension.