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Ex-CHR chair Rosales asks SC to invalidate Mindanao martial law extension

GMA News Online logo GMA News Online 1/12/2018 Jimenez, Raffy
Etta Rosales and Florin Hilbay file petition asking Supreme Court to declare martial law in Mindanao as unconstitutional, Jan. 12, 2018 © Virgil Lopez Etta Rosales and Florin Hilbay file petition asking Supreme Court to declare martial law in Mindanao as unconstitutional, Jan. 12, 2018

Former Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairperson Etta Rosales on Friday urged the Supreme Court (SC) to nullify the one-year extension of martial law in Mindanao which will be tackled in oral arguments next week.

Echoing the arguments of the two other petitioners, Rosales said there was no longer factual basis to extend the martial law declaration 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 ISIS-inspired Maute group—has been liberated.

Congress approved the one-year extension last December 13, roughly three weeks before the December 31 expiration of the six-month extension of the May 23 proclamation that placed the whole of Mindanao under martial rule following attacks by the Maute group in Marawi City. 

In seeking the extension, Duterte cited the military and police’s assessment pointing to  continuing terrorist recruitment, increasing violence from the communist rebels and the rehabilitation of Marawi.

“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.

The petition 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.

“President Duterte’s reference to the continued threat of rebels, terrorists, and communists in the region cannot be used to justify the extension of martial law,” it said.

“While the President has an unbridled discretion in using his other prerogatives – eg., the calling out power – martial law is and should not be used as a convenient substitute for normal and even intensified police operations and military intelligence gathering,” the petition read.

Rosales’ counsel, former solicitor general Florin Hilbay, 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 President Duterte, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces chief General Rey Guerrero, Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez as respondents. — RSJ, GMA News

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