Court declares martial law extension in Mindanao
MANILA: Voting 10 to 5, the Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday affirmed the legality of the one-year extension of martial law imposed by President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte over troubled Mindanao.
“The court finds sufficient factual basis for the issuance of both houses and finds it constitutional,” lawyer Theodoro Te, the SC spokesman, told a media briefing.
The “houses” Te was referring to were the Senate and the House Representatives which met in a joint session and overwhelmingly voted in late 2017 to extend for one year military rule in Mindanao with effect from Jan.31 to Dec.31, 2018.
Te said the tribunal announced its decision after hearing oral arguments in January from government lawyers and as well as opposition lawmakers and other petitioners who questioned the legality of the extension.
The petitioners argued that the 1987 Constitution did not provide any legal basis for the extension, like rebellion.
However, Solicitor General Jose Calida justified the extension as he pointed out that as the president Duterte enjoyed wide discretion and powers that nothing – not even the High Court or the Constitution – could stop him from extending martial law in Mindanao.
Duterte first declared martial law and suspended the writ of habeas corpus when Daesh linked terrorists and the Maute Group laid siege to Marawi City on May 23, 2017 that prompted him to cancel his ongoing state visit to Russia.
Under the Constitution, the martial law is to take effect for six months but Congress, which is dominated by Duterte supporters, voted to extend it with effect until Dec.31 2017.
In October 2017, government security forces liberated Marawi, the capital city of Lanao del Sur province after more than five months of heavy fighting, followed by another joint session of Congress that agreed for another one-year extension of martial law until Dec.31, 2018.
Duterte and his political allies defended the extension, stressing that despite the liberation of Marawi, the threat posed by local terror groups that have pledged allegiance to the Daesh in the Middle East remained.
In particular, the military revealed that Daesh leaders had appointed Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon as “emir” with specific orders to take over Marawi City and convert it into a caliphate to be used as their main base for the expansion of their operation in Southeast Asia.