Philippine Supreme Court Upholds Martial Law In Southern Philippines

People protesting Rodrigo Duterte martial law
Protesters fear Rodrigo Duterte is on his way to becoming a dictator after declaring Martial Law

05 July, 2017

Duterte placed Mindanao under martial law on May 23, after security forces clashed with the Maute - an Islamic State-inspired terrorist group - while en route to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, the designated IS "emir" in Southeast Asia.

During oral arguments from June 13 to 15, petitioners asked the SC to void the martial-law declaration and argued that there was no sufficient factual basis to justify the martial-law implementation.

Vice-President Maria Leonor G. Robredo, in a statement, said the decision was an "important component of the mandated checks and balances to martial law". He said martial law in Mindanao "will remain in effect to counter the persistent threat of terrorism and insurgency".

He further extended his gratitude to the high court "for allowing [Mr.] Duterte to perform his prime duty of protecting the Filipino people", adding: "As the conscience of our nation, the [SC] did not sit idly to watch our country get dismembered".

Various groups then challenged his declaration before the high court, saying what was happening in the besieged city could not be considered a rebellion, one of the grounds needed before martial law can be declared.

For Representatives Harry Roque of Kabayan party-list, Aniceto Bertiz of ACTS-OFW party-list and Karlo Nograles of Davao City, the Supreme Court ruling was a resounding affirmation of the President's powers under the Constitution. "We have high hopes that this war will soon come to an end".

The martial law declaration has strong support in Congress, which is dominated by Mr. Duterte's allies.

He also urged the government to "fast-track" efforts to bring Marawi back to its feet.

Lacson said the fact that the declaration had "factual basis" was "clear enough that there could not have been any other ruling" as overwhelming decisive.

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"With the Supreme Court decision, the whole government now stands together as one against a common enemy", said Ernesto Abella, a spokesman for the president.

Lacson was referring to Sen. "Konsyensya Dabaw particularly salutes Associate Justice Marvic Leonen who dissented from the majority ruling" and Sereno, Carpio and Caguioa who voted to limit the coverage of martial law in Mindanao.

"I can only hope that none of our Senate colleagues will call the magistrates lapdogs and cowards of the administration", he said.

Sen. Gringo Honasan, for his part, described the SC decision as "Philippine pluralistic democracy at work".

The SC has yet to rule on two other petitions filed against Proclamation No. 216 and seeking to compel Congress to convene and deliberate on the declaration.

Gatchalian described the SC ruling as a "free hand" for the President to use all necessary means to crush the Maute terrorists.

"There is actual rebellion (on) the streets of Marawi.The goal is to take over the Philippine territory", he said. Whatever its flaws, politics and democracy in its worst forms are much better than no rules, which is anarchy.

Drieza Liningding of Marawi City, Secretary-General of the Bangsamoro National Movement for Peace and Development and co-founder of the militant youth organization, Free The Bangsamoro Movement, said July 4 "should be declared as "National Day of Mourning" for us Meranaws!" as he claimed that on this day, the Supreme Court "upheld the injustices being committed against us".

"We will be ready to assess and make that decision if there's really a need to extend the declaration on [martial law]", Mr. Villanueva added.

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