By Vann Marlo M. Villegas, January 21 2019; Business World


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THE Supreme Court (SC) has rescheduled oral arguments on the third extension of martial law in Mindanao to Jan. 29 and 30, following two other petitions assailing the Congress’ approval to extend martial rule throughout this year.

The SC consolidated the three petitions for involving common questions of law and facts. The court also asked the respondents including Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III, House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea and Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana, among others, to comment on the petitions not later that Jan. 25.

The oral arguments were originally set on Jan. 22 and 23.

A group of human rights lawyers and two law students filed the third petition before the SC on Jan. 18 seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO).

The petitioners, including Christian S. Monsod who is one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution and Ateneo Human Rights Center Executive Director Ray Paolo J. Santiago, claimed that “present factual situation no longer calls for an extension of martial law.”

This followed the petitions of seven opposition lawmakers led by Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel C. Lagman last Jan. 4 and the Makabayan bloc last Jan. 16 opposing Congress’ approval of the third martial law extension last Dec. 12.

“The factual situation in Mindanao, which is the basis for the president to initiate the extension for martial law, and the Congress to approve, does not show that courts or the branches of civilian government are unable to carry out its functions,” they said in part.

The petitioners also cited the baranggay elections held by the Commission on Elections in Mindanao in May 2018 to support their claim that the basis for the martial law extension is no longer present.

They also said the SC “cannot be passive given the nature of the review.”

“While it is true that the Court awaits for a petition to invoke the jurisdiction to review, this Honorable Court, on the other hand, must be proactive in ascertaining the factual basis of the declaration of martial law,” they said, adding that it is the high tribunal’s mandate to be “the ultimate guardian of the Constitution.”

Other petitioners are Balaod Mindanaw, Inc. Executive Director Nolasco Ritz Lee B. Santos III, Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panlegal Executive Director Marie Hazel E. Lavitoria, and law students Dominic Amon R. Ladeza, and Xamantha Xofia A. Santos. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas