By Melvin Gascon, February 20 2019; Philippine Daily Inquirer
Image Credit to Philippine Daily Inquirer
Militant party-list groups on Tuesday denounced the Supreme Court ruling affirming the legality of the third extension of martial law in Mindanao, expressing fears the decision would result in more violence on the island.
The justices voted 9-4 on Tuesday to dismiss four petitions challenging the yearlong extension, which was approved by Congress on Dec. 12 last year.
As of press time on Tuesday, however, the court had not released a resolution explaining its ruling.
Supreme Court public information chief Brian Hosaka announced the results of the vote at a news conference called after the weekly session of the full court.
President Rodrigo Duterte issued Proclamation No. 216 on May 23, 2017, placing the entire island of Mindanao under martial law to allow the military to crush a terrorist siege of Marawi City.
The siege lasted for five months, but the Presidentextended military rule in Mindanao up to the end of 2017 and then up to the end of 2018 to enable the military to finish the remnants of the terror groups that seized Marawi.
Congress approved both extensions, and in December last year allowed a third extension that Mr. Duterte had requested, adding the communist insurgency to the fight against terrorism for justification.
Opposition lawmakers challenged the constitutionality of the first extension but lost, with 11 of the justices on the Supreme Court voting for the government in July 2017.
In February 2018, the court, ruling on the challenge to the second extension, voted 10-5 for the government.
How they voted
Four groups had brought the challenge to the third extension: opposition lawmakers led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman; the Makabayan bloc of party-list groups in the House of Representatives; lawyers led by former Election Commissioner Christian Monsod; and a group of “lumad” (indigenous) teachers and students represented by the Free Legal Assistance Group.
They lost the case, with Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin and Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Mariano del Castillo, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Andres Reyes Jr., Alexander Gesmundo, Jose Reyes Jr., Ramon Hernando and Rosmari Carandang siding with the government.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Marvic Leonen, Francis Jardeleza and Benjamin Caguioa voted against the third extension, as they did in the second.
In separate statements issued after the announcement of the result, the party-list groups Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Kabataan, Magdalo and Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) lamented how the Supreme Court had reduced itself into a “rubber stamp” for Malacañang, upholding the extension despite the lack of grounds for justification.
“The Supreme Court has once again stretched the boundaries of judicial interpretation by upholding Congress’ approval of President Duterte’s extension of martial law in Mindanao. It paves the way for imposing martial law nationwide even if there is no threat to public safety,” said Neri Colmenares, chair of Bayan Muna.
Gabriela said the Supreme Court had once again proven that it had submitted itself to the whims of the Duterte administration.
“Where will Filipino women and the people turn to for justice and accountability during these dark times of impunity if the Supreme Court itself is already an appendage of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and its Commander in Chief?” said Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas.
“Once again, the [Supreme Court] as the rubber stamp of Duterte’s antipeople tyranny has declared the constitutionality of a third martial law extension in Mindanao, no matter how more and more absurd it is getting,” Kabataan said.
Magdalo took a shot at the Supreme Court for “bowing down to the whims of Malacañang.”
“Where is the independence of the Supreme Court?” Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said. “Instead of being a vanguard of justice and rationality, the Supreme Court has shown otherwise.”
ACT said the Supreme Court had no basis to declare the third extension constitutional.
“The only terrorism still lurking in [Mindanao] is state terrorism, brought by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, paramilitary forces and the Philippine National Police who drive lumad children out of their schools, illegally detain people without warrants of arrest, charge them with trumped-up cases and tag them as terrorists,” the group’s Rep. Antonio Tinio said.
Malacañang said it was “pleased” with the ruling, which showed that the three branches of government were “on the same page” in seeking an end to violence in Mindanao.
“As we fast-track the rehabilitation of the war-torn Marawi and promote security and peace and order in Mindanao, we ask the Filipino nation not to waver in their support for our Republic’s defenders,” said presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo.
“Let us remain vigilant and prevail against these antidemocratic forces,” he added.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana thanked the Supreme Court for agreeing with the government.
“[Martial law] has and will continue to greatly help our counterterrorism [operations] and fight against rebellious forces in Mindanao,” Lorenzana said. —WITH REPORTS FROM DONA Z. PAZZIBUGAN, CHRISTINE O. AVENDAÑO AND JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE