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Saturday, September 21, 2019

Opposition lawmakers question martial law declaration before SC

A GROUP of congressmen belonging to the so-called "independent minority bloc" at the House of Representatives challenged on Monday the martial law declaration in Mindanao before the Supreme Court (SC).

The group, led by Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, said in a petition that President Rodrigo Dutere's martial law proclamation "lacks factual basis."

Other petitioners in the case are Representatives Tomasito Villarin, Gary Alejano, Emmanuel Billones, Teddy Baguilat Jr. and Edgar Erice.

The legislators said there was no need for martial law, as there was no case of rebellion or invasion, conditions that merit such declaration as well as the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

The President suspended the writ of habeas corpus and placed Mindanao under martial law on the evening of May 23, following terror attacks perpetrated by the Islamic State-inspired Maute group in Marawi City.

In Duterte's proclamation 216, he used as basis for martial law Maute's deadly attacks that have disrupted peace in Marawi, its torching of churches, hospitals and schools, and its raising of Isis flags in some establishments, allegedly proving their allegiance to Isis.

But for the petitioners, mere conclusions on "pretended existence of rebellion and/or invasion will not serve as sufficient basis."

The petitioners pointed out that no less than the military has admitted that the clashes in Marawi City stemmed from the military operation to neutralize alleged Maute leader Isnilon Hapilon.

"Consequently, the alleged 'siege' of Marawi City was actually an armed resistance by the Maute Group to shield Hapilon from capture, not to overrun Marawi and remove its allegiance from the Republic," the petitioners said.

The group also called the President's report to the Congress disclosing grounds for the declaration as "inaccurate and false."

"The alleged facts contained in Proclamation No. 216 and the President’s Report justifying the imposition of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus turned out to be mostly inaccurate, simulated, false and/or hyperbolic and the list of terrorist acts or incidence of violence are either distant or have been earlier solved with the apprehension and prosecution of the suspected culprits," the petition read.

Furthermore, the lawmakers said the declaration must be revoked for the reason that the President acted alone, without any recommendation from the military, as confirmed by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

Under the 1987 Constitution, the SC has the power to annul a martial law declaration had it found that the President acted arbitrarily.

The Congress was also given the power to revoke or extend the 60-day martial law prescribed in the Constitution.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives, however, did not convene in a joint session as both Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said Congress will only assemble if it decides to revoke or extend the supposed 60-day martial rule. (SunStar Philippines)
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