THE Supreme Court (SC) is set to conduct oral arguments on the petition that challenges the decision of Congress to extend the martial law in Mindanao for another one year until December 2019.

According to SC Spokesperson Midas Marquez, the oral arguments will be held on January 22 and 23 at 2 p.m. The preliminary conference for the parties is set for January 12 at 10 a.m.

The SC has also ordered the government to comment to the petition, which was filed by Albay Representative Edcel Lagman and other opposition lawmakers at the House of Representatives within a non-extendible period of seven days.

Last December 12, the Congress voted 235-28-1 to extend up to the end of 2019 the imposition of martial law in Mindanao.

Lagman and the other lawmakers asked the SC to void and declare as unconstitutional this third extension of martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in the entire Mindanao, saying that it mocks the 1987 Constitution as rebellion no longer exists in the area.

The other petitioners are Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice, Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, Quezon City Rep. Jose Christopher Belmonte and Dinagat Islands Rep. Arlene Bag-ao.

Martial law was first declared in Mindanao in May 2017, when firefight erupted between the government forces and the Maute Group in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.

Martial law, which was good for only 60 days, was extended until the end of 2017 as the armed conflict raged in Marawi. Hostilities ceased in October, but Congress extended martial law again until the end of 2018.

In December 2018, Congress again voted to extend martial law until the end of 2019 upon the request of President Rodrigo Duterte based on the recommendation of the police and military. (SunStar Philippines)