By Rey Panaligan
Solicitor General Jose C. Calida has asked the Supreme Court (SC) to dismiss the three other petitions that challenged the constitutionality of the extension of martial law in Mindanao until Dec. 31, 2019.
In a manifestation, Calida pleaded the court to adopt his comment filed in the first case lodged by Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman. He asked the dismissal of Lagman’s petition.
Calida said the three other petitions have the same allegations as those presented in the Lagman petition.
Sought to be dismissed are the three separate petitions filed by the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives led by Bayan Muna Party-List Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, the group led by former Commission on Elections chair Christian Monsod, and the group of Lumad teachers and students.
The SC, which will hear the four cases in oral arguments starting Tuesday (January 29), has also asked the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), headed by Calida, to comment on the three petitions.
Calida has also submitted to the SC the reports given to Congress by the Department of National Defense on the implementation of martial law in Mindanao for the whole of 2018. The reports were allegedly used as bases in the extension of martial law in Mindanao until the end of this year.
In his comment on the Lagman petition, Calida told the SC that the persistence of rebellion in Mindanao justifies the extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.
Calida said that contrary to the allegations in Lagman’s petition, rebellion – a key requirement for declaration of martial law under the Constitution — persists in Mindanao.
Calida cited official reports of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on “ongoing rebellion of the Daesh-Inspires groups and its local and foreign allies, particularly the Daulah Islamiyah (DI) and also of the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) forces in Mindanao.”
He said that the “Daesh- inspired groups have shifted their strategy from establishing a Wilayat to global insurgency or rebellion” and that “they continue their recruitment and radicalization activities teaching their new members how to launch deadlier attacks and to sow chaos and instability that will extremely endanger the public.”
“Based on the AFP’s end of first semester data, the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) has a total of 424 members with 473 firearms. They are scattered all over Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Zamboanga covering 138 barangays. The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) has 264 members with 254 firearms and affecting 50 barangays. The DI has a reach of 16 barangays and is composed of 59 members of the Maute group with 61 firearms, 6 members of the Maguid Group with 10 firearms, and 85 members of the Turaifie Group with 20 firearms. The total barangays affected are 204,” the solicitor general bared.
At the same time, Calida cited the attacks by the said groups from January to December last year as well as the “consistent influx of foreign terrorists in the country who are primarily responsible for the conduct of trainings to local terrorist fighters, especially in making improvised explosive devices and motivating locals to serve as suicide bombers.”
“This is on top of the ongoing rebellion by the CPP-NPA and their attacks in Mindanao last year,” he said.
“In the present case, it is apparent that the NPA continues to rise publicly and take up arms against the government. From January 1to December 31, 2018, there have been a total of 369 NPA-initiated violent incidents. 193 of these were committed in Mindanao alone,” he said.
Thus, he said, the extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus for another year “is necessary to provide public safety in Mindanao,” he added.
He pointed out that the cessation of the Marawi siege and the liberation of the city from terrorists cannot be the sole basis to lift martial law in Mindanao.
In February last year, the SC declared constitutional President Duterte’s extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao until Dec. 31, 2018
The SC ruled: “The President and Congress had sufficient factual bases to extend Proclamation No. 216. The rebellion that spawned the Marawi incident persists. Public safety requires the extension, as shown by facts presented by the AFP” (Armed Forces of the Philippines).”
Martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao were first imposed by the President for 60 days on May 23, 2017 as a result of the attack in Marawi City by the Maute Group and its followers through Proclamation No. 216.
When challenged before the SC, the High Court ruled in July 2017 on the constitutionality of the President’s proclamation with a declaration that Proclamation No. 216 has sufficient factual bases.