SC tells Congress, Palace leaders to comment on petition vs ML extension

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Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, seen presiding over a joint session of Congress on the martial law extension. Senators balk at the House proposal to convene into a constituent assembly to amend the Constitution, and have the two chambers vote on these jointly. (File photo by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon)

MANILA- The Supreme Court on Friday ordered Congress and Palace officials to comment within 10 days on the petition filed by six lawmakers seeking to strike down the one-year extension of the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

“Whereas, considering the allegations contained, the issues raised and arguments adduced in the petition, it is necessary and proper, without giving due course to the petition, to comment on the petition with prayer for issuance of a temporary restraining order or a writ of preliminary injunction,” said the SC en banc resolution signed by clerk of court Felipa Anama and released by the office of the high court’s public information officer, Atty. Theodore Te.

Respondents who were directed to respond to the petition filed by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and five others members of the House of Representatives are: Senate President Koko Pimentel, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno. Armed Forces hief of Staff General Rey Leonardo Guerrero is also a respondent.

All respondents were given a “non-extendible period” of 10 days from receipt of the notice to file their comments to the petition, filed Wednesday (Dec. 27) before the Supreme Court. The extension approved by Congress, to last from January 1 to December 31, 2018, is actually a second extension of the May 23, 2017 martial law declaration – lasting for 60 days – signed by President Duterte at the outbreak of the Marawi siege.

Congress approved a second extension which ends on December 31, 2017; hence, the Executive’s request to Congress to approve a second, longer extension. Congress, through a resolution in joint session, approved the extension request on December 13, 2017.

BASIS FOR LAGMAN PETITION

The petition filed by Lagman’s groups said that, after Duterte declared Marawi City liberated from the Maute Group, there was no longer a need to extend martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao “to defeat phantom remnants.”

“The extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus against remnants of terrorists groups is akin to killing a fly with a sledgehammer,” the petition said.

It asked the high court to issue a TRO or a writ of preliminary injunction to stop the implementation of the martial law extension from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018.

Lagman was joined in the petition docketed as G.R. No. 235935 by Reps. Tom Villarin of Akbayan, Edgar Erice of Caloocan, Teddy Brawner Baguilat, Jr. of Ifugao, Gary Alejano of Magdalo and Emmanuel Billones of Capiz. Rep. Raul Daza of Northern Samar was unable to join the petitioners.

They cited the following grounds for the nullification of the re-extension:

(1) There is no actual rebellion in Mindanao to justify the re-extension;
(2) Senate President Pimentel III and Speaker Alvarez, supported by the supermajority in both Chambers of Congress, unduly constricted the period of deliberation and interpellation on the subject extension so much so that the President’s request for extension was approved baselessly and with inordinate haste;
(3) 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.
(4) The re-extension of one full year defies the unequivocal intent and mandate of the Constitution of having a limited duration of martial law and its extension.
(5) The Constitution does not allow a series of extensions or re-extensions of a martial law proclamation, which may lead to “extensions in perpetuity”.
(6) The congressional grant of re-extension has no factual anchorage and is afflicted by grave abuse of discretion.
(7) The President as Commander-in-Chief has the power to call out the armed forces to prevent and subdue lawlessness by remnants of terrorist groups without extending martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao.

According to President Rodrigo Duterte and his advisers in the defense, military and police establishments, the so-called “remnants” of terrorist groups have been monitored as just “recruiting” new fighters and “regrouping” to launch new attacks, the petitioners said.

As lead petitioner, Lagman underscored the following:

(1) “Rebellion” or “invasion” is neither a state of mind or a state of fear. It must be actual, not contingent. It must be real, not contrived.
(2) “Remnants” of vanquished terrorist groups do not have the capacity to launch a rebellion, even as the government is molding them into apparent menacing ogres, instead of preempting them by ordinary military and police operations without the need for extending martial law.
(3) Labi na nga, pilit pang binubuhay upang maghasik ng huwad na lagim. Pinalawig ang batas militar upang sugpuin ang mga tira-tira at reta-retaso (Remnants are being resurrected to sow phantom terror. Martial law is being thrown at the residual tatters).
(4) Martial law cannot be extended in Mindanao simply to subdue residual phantoms.
(5) The improvident extension of martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus against remnants of terrorist groups is akin to killing a fly with a sledgehammer.

The petitioners also 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.

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