Petition before the Supreme Court questions constitutionality of martial law extension

December 27, 2017 - 9:36 PM
Detail from the petition challenging the consitutionality of extending martial law.

MANILA, Philippines – A petition was filed Wednesday before the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of the martial law extension in Mindanao four days before it takes effect.

The petition, filed by opposition members of the House of Representatives led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, said that, after President Rodrigo 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 temporary restraining order (TRO) or a writ of preliminary injunction to stop the implementation of the martial law extension from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018.

Congress, through a resolution in joint session, approved the extension request on December 13, 2017.

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.

Named respondents were Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez, Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea, Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana, Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno and Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief-of-Staff General Rey Leonardo Guerrero.

The petitioners 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.

Below, a facsimile of the petition before the Supreme Court: