How SC decided on the second extension of martial law in Mindanao

BULATLAT FILE PHOTO: The Supreme Court on June 13 opens oral arguments for the petitions seeking to invalidate President Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao. (Photo by Ian Irving Bazarte/Bulatlat)

Seen as a precedent to nationwide military rule in the Philippines, human rights groups and advocates and freedom-loving individuals readily opposed the second extension and denounced the Supreme Court’s decision.

By RUTH LUMIBAO
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — “We cannot afford to emasculate, dilute, or diminish the powers of government if in the end, it would lead to the destruction of the State and place the safety of our citizens in peril and their interest in harm’s way,” Justice Tijam, as ponente, wrote in the Lagman vs. Pimentel (2018) decision.

In a vote of 10-5, the second extension of martial law in Mindanao, six months longer than its first extension, was declared constitutional. Almost the same justices who voted in favor of the first extension also voted in favor of the second.

Read: ‘A prelude to 24/7 martial law’ | SC urged to junk second ML extension

Seen as a precedent to nationwide military rule in the Philippines, human rights groups and advocates and freedom-loving individuals readily opposed the second extension and denounced the Supreme Court’s decision.

“Another year of martial law in Mindanao will no doubt create a favorable condition for the military to continue its rampage on people’s rights with impunity,” Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (Karapatan) Secretary General Cristina Palabay said in a statement.

Read: ‘There is no legal basis to extend martial law in Mindanao’ – petitioners

The following are the salient points in the SC’s decision:

1. Rebellion persists and threat to public safety exists

Despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s admission, supported by statements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) after the three leaders of the Maute group were killed, that the conflict in Marawi City has already ended, an extension of martial law for a year was recommended.

“I hereby declare Marawi City liberated from the terrorist influence that marks the beginning of the rehabilitation of Marawi,” the President said.

Betraying his own admission, the President formally asked Congress in December 2017 for a second extension of Martial Law in Mindanao for a year.

“…to ensure the total eradication of DAESH-inspired Da’waful Islamiyah Waliyatul Masriq (DIWM), other like-minded local/foreign terrorist groups (L/GTGs) and Armed Lawless Groups (ALGs), and the communist terrorists (CTs) and their coddlers, supporters, and financiers,” the President stated in his letter to Congress. With a supermajority of Partido Demokratiko Pilipino – Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) members in Congress, the second extension was approved.

Aside from the Maute group, the Duterte administration included the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Turaife Group, the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), and the New People’s Army (NPA). The BIFF and the ASG have existed even before martial law was imposed in Mindanao, and the NPA has been waging a revolutionary struggle for almost fifty (50) years — despite and in spite of the intense militarization of areas and declaration of martial law in 1972.

In its decision, the SC admitted that the NPA was not included in the list of rebel groups that triggered the first declaration of martial law in Mindanao. With the turn of events, however, citing that the NPA continued operations during the peace talks and took advantage of the military’s distraction with the Maute fighters, they are now included as one of the reasons for the second extension of martial law.

Although all petitioners questioned the factual grounds upon which the Duterte administration proposed the extension, the Court decided to go back to its decision in Lagman vs. Medialdea, on the first extension of martial law, and said that “the Court will have to rely on the fact-finding capabilities of the [E]xecutive [D]epartment; in turn, the Executive Department will have to open its findings to the scrutiny of the Court.”

“Even during the joint session, human rights victims and survivors of martial law in Mindanao were not allowed to speak in the halls of the Congress to tell the horrors’ they faced under martial rule. And now the SC believes that it is just to extend the martial rule for another year. This decision is an insult to their plight and to the terror they have to face every day,” said Gabriela Women’s Partylist (GWP) Rep. Arlene Brosas.

BULATLAT FILE PHOTO. (Photo by Carlo Manalansan/Bulatlat)

2. No nexus between human rights violations and declaration of martial law

“The alleged violations of the petitioners’ civil liberties do not justify the grant of injunctive relief. The petitioners failed to prove that the alleged violations are directly attributable to the imposition of martial law,” the SC decision read.

In declaring that there is no nexus between the record of human rights violations and the imposition of martial law, the SC chose to ignore the reports of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), various fact finding missions conducted in Marawi City during the period of Martial Law, and news reports about aerial bombings, illegal arrests and detention due to mistaken identities, and other human rights violations.

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago, one of the representatives of the Makabayan bloc in Congress, questioned the AFP about the human rights violations committed by the military. Upon reading reports of human rights workers during her interpellation, Department of National Defense (DND) Sec. Delfin Lorenzana merely said, “Hindi ako naniniwala na naghahasik kami ng lagim sa Mindanao. Hindi po nakarating sa amin ang report na iyan.” (“I do not believe that the military sows terror in Mindanao. Those reports did not reach us.”)

When Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Ariel Casilao offered to have residents of Marawi City and Mindanao testify on the human rights violations committed in Mindanao, he was not permitted by Congress.

“We cited a long and heart breaking list of human rights violations during the joint session and the proponents of the martial law extension just fell silent about it,” said Brosas.

Read: Rights abuses on the rise after Mindanao martial law extension

With this decision seemingly absolving or ignoring the human rights violations, Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate warned that the AFP would be “further emboldened to commit atrocities against Lumads and other Mindanaons.”

“Terrorism does exist in Mindanao — a terrorism perpetrated by the Duterte administration itself in order to sow fear among the people and suppress their dissenting and grieving voices, to suppress the exercise of their rights,” Elago said in a statement.

Read: Second extension of Mindanao martial law brings more rights abuses, says Karapatan

3. Safeguards, laws still exist to protect the people

Similar to its decision regarding the constitutionality of the first extension of martial law, the SC declared that civil liberties and human rights were still protected because existing laws provided recourse for those who fall victim to the atrocities of the military.

The SC cited the Anti-Torture Act of 2009, Writ of Amparo, Bill of Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other safeguards that will serve as protection to the rights of the people. Instead of issuing an injunction, the SC declared that the victims could instead lodge individual complaints against the perpetrators.

Instead, as Karapatan warned, the legitimization of martial law for another year in Mindanao furthers the culture of impunity.

During the period of martial law in Mindanao, terror-tagging and ‘wanted’ posters of progressive leaders, activists, and human rights advocates circulated in Davao. How the SC expects the people to get a favorable decision at a time when all institutions are either controlled or heavily influenced by the Executive Department is ludicrous and insensitive to the victims of human rights violations who have been denied justice for too long.

“Just as the Duterte-controlled super majority in Congress colluded to approve the extension of martial law last December 2017, the SC followed through with a rubber stamp to legitimize martial rule, completing the ingredients for a full-fledged tyranny,” Palabay said.

Following the Marcosian template of having the SC legitimize the ratification of the 1973 Constitution, the Duterte administration is near the completion of its process toward dictatorial rule.

“This SC will go down in history as the Court that chose to turn a blind eye to the reality of the political situation, allowing another fascist leader to rise into dictatorship. This SC will repeat the mistake of its seniors made four decades ago in allowing the Marcos dictatorship to change the Constitution and thereafter declare Martial law,” Elago criticized.

And just as history repeats itself, the people are once again reminded that while a person in power has all the tools of oppression, the power of the people will always be stronger than the strength of an isolated tyrant. (http://bulatlat.com)

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