Opposition solons ask Supreme Court to nullify Congress vote to re-extend martial law

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 27) — Opposition lawmakers on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to reject the extension of martial law in Mindanao until the end of 2018.

In a 29-page petition, the congressmen, led by Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman, argued there was no need to further extend martial law.

"The re-extension of one full year defies the unequivocal intent and mandate of the Constitution of having a limited duration of martial law and its extension," they said.

The Constitution says the President may, for "a period not exceeding 60 days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law."

It adds the Congress may, upon the initiative of the President, extend the proclamation "for a period to be determined by Congress."

Congress in a joint session on December 12 voted 240-27 to extend martial law for a year, despite criticisms.

Martial law in Mindanao was supposed to end on December 31 this year, following the first request of President Rodrigo Duterte to extend it when martial rule lapsed on July 23. 

Martial law was declared in Mindanao on May 23 when ISIS-inspired Maute fighters attacked the city, and a five-month-long war ensued.

The petitioners — which include Akbayan Party-list Tom Villarin, Caloocan City 2nd District Rep. Edgar Erice, Ifugao Lone District Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat Jr., Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano, Capiz 1st District Rep. Emmanuel Billones, and Northern Samar 1st District Rep. Raul Daza — also said granting the one-year extension may lead to further extensions.

"The congressional grant of re-extension has no factual anchorage and is afflicted by grave abuse of discretion," the petition read.

The respondents in the petition are Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, and Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Rey Leonardo Guerrero.

The lawmakers also said the threat of terrorism is not a constitutional basis for the extension of martial law.

"'Imminent danger' has been deleted as a ground for imposing martial law under the 1987 Constitution," they said.

Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra on December 12 defended President Duterte's request, saying it was "not based on an assessment of an existing threat, but on the basis of a continuing actual rebellion."

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana also said during Congress' joint session on the extension of martial law  that despite the defeat of the Maute group in Marawi, rebellion in other areas of Mindanao has not stopped.

When Duterte submitted a letter of request for another extension on December 10, he said martial law was needed to respond to attacks by local and foreign terrorist groups, as well as the "intensified" rebellion of the New People's Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which has waged a 48-year-old insurgency.

CNN Philippines correspondent Joyce Ilas contributed to this report.