Despite of the petition against the efficacy of its extension, the Supreme Court, voting 9-4, still upheld the constitutionality of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Proclamation 216 or the Martial Law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.
Duterte’s martial law for Mindanao has been extended for another year (up to December 2019), the third time that the Supreme Court avowed the legality and factual basis of the Proclamation. The martial law was first extended by Congress for the period from July 22 to December 31, 2017; and the second was from January 1, 2018, to December 31, 2018.
The decision penned by Rosmari Carandang, the newly appointed member of the SC, was supported by nine Justices namely Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin, Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, Andres Reyes Jr., Jose Reyes Jr., Alexander Gesmundo, Ramon Paul Hernando, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Mariano del Castillo and of course, Carandang herself.
The first declaration of Duterte’s martial law in the whole of Mindanao was on May 23, 2017 due to the Maute rebellion in Marawi City. The Maute, which has taken over some barangays in Marawi City, is a militant group trying to establish their own Islamic state in the Islands of Mindanao while conspiring with other radical Islamic terrorist groups in the Middle East. While in the middle of the ongoing clashes between the Maute group and the government troops, Proclamation 216 was declared.
Meanwhile, the four who differed were Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, and Francis Jardeleza.
Petitioners led by lawmakers Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate and the Bayan Muna Party-list (group of militant lawmakers), the group led by former Commission on Elections Chairman Christian Monsod, and Mindanao indigenous people led by the Free Legal Assistance Group contended that it has a failure to “satisfy the public safety requirement under the 1987 Constitution” that’s why the extension is “unconstitutional”.
According to the petition, there was no factual basis on the president’s letter to Congress proving that there is a serious threat to the public safety in Mindanao for the martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus to continue for another year. Also, the petitioners claimed that “Congress failed to exercise its power to properly check the President’s martial-law powers”.
On the other hand, Solicitor General Jose Calida released a statement in defense of the martial law’s third extension citing the AFP’s end-of-first-semester data showing that “terrorist groups are still active in Mindanao”. In addition to this, Calida also noted that the “New People’s Army (NPA) continues to rise publicly and take up arms against the government”.