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3rd legal challenge filed vs ML extension in Mindanao

A fresh petition has been filed before the Supreme Court (SC), this time by former Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairman Loreta Ann “Etta” Rosales challenging Malacañang’s extension of martial law declaration in Mindanao.

Rosales was represented by former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, former President Benigno Aquino’s top lawyer during his term.
Echoing the arguments of the two other petitioners, Rosales said there was no longer factual basis to extend martial law and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao since President Rodrigo Duterte already declared last October that Marawi City — the center of skirmishes between government troops and Islamic State-inspired Maute group — has been liberated.
In a 33-page petition, she stressed a threat of violence is not the requisite stated under the Constitution to justify martial law.

According Rosales, under the Constitution, a suspension of the writ of habeas corpus or the declaration of martial law can only be done in case of invasion, rebellion or when the public safety requires it.
She said the same provision of the Constitution, Article VII Section 18, states that to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion, the President’s calling-out power should be exercised — meaning the military will be called upon to prevent such violence, rebellion or invasion.
In this case, however, petitioner said the government itself declared that the Marawi siege is over and the martial law has been declared to stop the possible regrouping of terror groups.
“Actual invasion or actual rebellion presupposes the existence of a theater of war that requires the imposition of military law on the civilian population. Thus, in the absence of an actual invasion or actual rebellion, necessarily, there is no factual basis for extending martial law,” Rosales said, adding that allowing the extension for such reason would justify the declaration of martial for every mop-up operation by the military.
Rosales said the High Court should not tolerate such justification to declare martial law.
“The Honorable Court is the last institution that can prevent the misuse and ‘normalization’ of martial law for ordinary peacekeeping and governance activities,” she added.
“With all due respect, and without diminishing the threat posed by any of the foregoing, none of these constitute actual rebellion or actual invasion. Moreover, it mistakes the distinction between the need for military force which is effected through the use of the calling out powers of the President, on one hand, and the need for imposing martial law on the civilian population, on the other,” the petition stated.
It added martial law cannot be imposed or extended for “preventive reasons,” noting the framers of the 1987 Constitution deleted imminent danger as one of the grounds for declaring such emergency rule.
“This petition is not just addressed to the court, but to all of us, including the military and the police,” Rosales told reporters.
“All of us deserve to understand more profoundly, more succinctly this definition (of martial law) in order to uphold democracy which we had fought for during the Edsa (People Power) revolution,” she said.
The former CHR chief also disputed the claims that Mindanao residents welcomed the President’s decision to extend martial law even after the military ended the five-month occupation of Marawi City by the IS-allied Maute terror group.
Rosales said a recent survey showed that more than 60 percent of Filipinos were not supportive of Mr. Duterte’s Proclamation No. 216, which placed Mindanao under military rule and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.
“The principle of check and balance was strengthened by the 1987 Constitution to prevent the abuse of authority and grave abuse of discretion of any branch of government,” she stressed.
Hilbay, for his part, noted that the 15-member tribunal did not specify the meaning of martial law when it upheld the legality the President’s martial law order in July last year.
The 30-year-old Charter authorized the Chief Executive to impose a military rule, the high court did not to set a clear definition of the legal concept to serve as a guide for the executive and legislative branches of the government, according to Hilbay.
“The basic problem with the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court right now is that they have allowed the President to exercise martial law powers, but they have not defined what martial law is all about,” he said.
“And because they haven’t defined martial law, you have these (questions) on what the President can do, what the military can do and the real purpose of martial law,” he continued.
Hilbay also said they asked the SC to consolidate the petition with that of six opposition congressmen led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and activist groups and militant lawmakers which will be heard in oral arguments on January 16 and 17.
Rosales’ petition named the Chief Executive, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces chief of staff General Rey Guerrero, Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald de la Rosa, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez as respondents. PNA

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