SC upholds Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 04 July) — By a vote of 11-3-1, the Supreme Court dismissed all three petitions filed before the Supreme Court questioning the legality of President Rodrigo Duterte’s May 23 declaration of martial law in all of Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities for 60 days. Three voted for a limited scope while one said the declaration was without factual basis.

Only Justice Marvic Leonen voted to grant the petitions saying there is no factual basis for Proclamation 216 declaring martial law all over Mindanao while Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa partially granted the petition, opining its area of coverage should be limited and should not be all of Mindanao.

Among all the justices, Leonen is most familiar with Bangsamoro issues and struggles, including threats of violent extremism, having served as government peace panel chair in the negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front from July 2010 until his appointment to the Supreme Court in November 2012.

The SC decision came on Day 43 of the Marawi Crisis and Day 43 also of martial law in Mindanao.

Duterte, then in Moscow on official visit, declared martial law effective 10 p.m. on May 23, hours after clashes between government forces and the ISIS-inspired Maute Group started in Marawi.

All 15 justices have circulated their respective opinions, whether concurring or dissenting, and “all opinions will be finalized and submitted by Wednesday,” the SC briefer said.

The petitions were filed by Reps. Edcel Lagman, Tomasito Villarin, Gary Alejano, Emmanuel Bilones and Teddy Brawner Baguilat against Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Defense Secretary and Martial Law Administrator Delfin Lorenzana; Eufenia Campos Cullamat vs President Rodrigo, et al; and Norkaya Mohaamad vs Medialdea, et al.

“Best option”

Mindanao’s business sector welcomed the SC ruling.

Vicente Lao, chair of the Mindanao Business Council (MBC) said martial law is “the best option to fight ISIS in Mindanao.”

“We want to give the President all the legal support to counter these grave threats now in Mindanao,” he said.

In a statement, Duterte’s son, Paolo, incumbent Vice Mayor of Davao City said the SC ruling “clearly shows that the threat of terrorism is a clear and present danger that needs to be addressed by each and every Filipino” and that it is an affirmation that the President “has the country’s welfare in mind when he imposed martial rule.”

“Now that the legal debacle is done and over with, we should stand united and fully support the Martial Law in Mindanao,” he said.

“National Day of Mourning”

But while Duterte’s supporters cheered the SC ruling, a former avid campaigner and supporter from Marawi says it

Drieza Liningding of Marawi City, Secretary-General of the Bangsamoro National Movement for Peace and Development and co-founder of the militant youth organization, Free The Bangsamoro Movement, said July 4 “should be declared as ‘National Day of Mourning’ for us Meranaws!” as he claimed that on this day, the Supreme Court “upheld the injustices being committed against us.”

Martial law, he said, “means more hardships, discrimination and abuses to us!”

Lininding said the High Court “conspired with the Duterte administration to bury the truth surrounding Marawi Siege.”

“Let’s brace ourselves for the extension of martial law  as the Madman in Malacanang ‘thirsty for blood’ unleashes more of his fury against us the civilians,” said Liningding, who  actively campaigned for Duterte during the Presidential campaign and supported him until the Marawi Crisis.

Liningding said the Meranaws will never abandon their aspiration for self-determination.

“Our aspiration remains ‘ till a peaceful political- settlement is achieved,” he said.

“Ominous development”  

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate called the SC’s decision an “ominous development that may place the country in an even more dangerous position.

“Now, Martial Law can almost arbitrarily be declared, and, in a sense, apparently putting us at the hands of a de facto military junta,” he said, adding he expects “an emboldened military and police to commit more human rights violations and further endanger the lives of our people not just in Marawi but the whole of Mindanao.”

“The Martial law monster will now target civilians and organizations considered as sympathetic and supportive of the CPP-NPA because  AFP Operational Directive Number 2 2017 or the “AFP’s Implementation of Martial Law in Mindanao” key task no. 3 makes the NPA target of Martial law,” he said.

He urged the public to be  “very vigilant and resist the further continuation of Martial Law in Mindanao or its extension to other parts of the Philippines.”

In a statement, Konsyensya Dabaw said the immediate challenge, aside from looking into filing a motion for reconsideration, is “making sure that the ruling does not get used for objectives beyond what the Supreme Court ruled was constitutional.”

Konsyensa Dabaw cited Task no. 3 of the AFP Operational Directive  to “degrade the armed capabilities of the NPA,” which is “worrisome because there have been no proven connections between the NPA and the jihadists, and in light of efforts to bring the peace process between government and the National Democratic Front back on track.”

Konsyensya Dabaw also cautioned those who would use the SC ruling to push for an extension of martial law beyond 60 days.

Martial law until 2022?

“There is already cause for concern because House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has been quoted as expressing openness for keeping Mindanao under Martial Law until 2022, and the security sector is reportedly inclined to ask for its extension beyond July 22,” it siad.

It also called on citizens to “continue to be discerning and vigilant.”

“As our own history has borne out, the final and most effective check against authoritarianism and militarism are citizens who do not equate citizenship with blind obedience, and are not afraid to stand up to tyranny in whatever form it may present itself,” it said.

It also honored the justices who dissented from the majority ruling. “Konsyensya Dabaw particularly salutes Associate Justice Marvic Leonen who dissented from the majority ruling” and Sereno, Carpio and Caguioa who voted to limit the coverage of martial law in Mindanao.

Jay Apiag, spokesperson of Karapatan Southern Mindanao said the SC ruling is “disgusting” as it signals a “more dangerous climate for our peasant, Lumads and Moro people in Mindanao especially to those groups, individuals and institutions directly participating in advancing the people’s rights and interests. (MindaNews)