Voting 10-5, Supreme Court upholds martial law extension until yearend

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 06 February) —  Voting 10-5, the Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the year-long extension of martial law and suspension of the writ of habeas corpus over Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities until December 31, 2018.

“The Court finds sufficient factual basis for the issuance of Resolution of both Houses number 4 and declares it constitutional,” Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te said.

Resolution 4 of both houses of Congress was passed on December 13, granting President Rodrigo Duterte’s request to extend martial for a year until December 31, 2018.

It was the second extension requested by Duterte who issued Proclamation 216 declaring martial law on May 23, 2017, some eight hours after the clashes in Marawi City between government forces and the Maute Group and its allies, began.

The latter laid siege on the city following the failed attempt of government forces to arrest the Abu Sayyaf’s Isnilon Hapilon who was monitored to be in Marawi City then.

A member of Task Force Davao performs a search on a bus passenger’s backpack at a checkpoint in Lasang, Davao City on (24 May 2017 as the city tightens security following the declaration of martial law over the entire Mindanao by President Rodrigo Duterte. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Under the Constitution, the President can declare martial law up to 60 days, its extension subject to the approval of Congress.  In mid-July, Congress granted the President’s request for  an extension until yearend 2017.

The siege ended five months later with Duterte declaring Marawi City “liberated from the terrorist influence.” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana terminated all combat operations in Marawi on October 23, exactly five months since the siege began.

Those who declared the extension constitutional were Associate Justices Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Lucas Bersamin,Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Mariano del Castillo, ALexander Gesmundo, Samuel Martires, Diosdado Peralta, Andres Reyes, Jr., Noel Tijam, and Presbitero Velasco, Jr.

Those who dissented were Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, Francis Jardeleza and Marvic Leonen.

In a statement, Solicitor-General Jose Calida said the Supreme Court’s decision “fortifies its earlier decision finding the existence of real and present rebellion in the whole of Mindanao.”

“To this day, the rebellion continues – impeding on the daily lives of our fellow Filipinos, and threatening our country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Calida said he is “grateful” to the Supreme Court justices who decided in favor of the government “and for being one with the President in protecting the country.”

“This legal victory will significantly help not only the Armed Forces but also other stakeholders, in putting an end to the ongoing strife, and in restoring public order, safety, and stability in Mindanao,” Calida said, as he asked the pubic to “continue to pray for our countrymen in Mindanao, that they will finally reap the fruits of peace and prosperity in the land of promise.”

In a statement, Defense Secretary and Martial Law Administrator Delfin Lorenzana welcomed the SC ruling, saying “the whole of government can now fully pursue with great vigor its efforts in ending the continuing rebellion in Mindanao decisively.”

“This will definitely heighten the morale of our Defenders and allow them to better safeguard public safety in Mindanao as well as give Task Force Bangon Marawi the necessary space to undertake the unhampered rehabilitation of Marawi,” Lorenzana added. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)