SC upholds martial law extension in Mindanao

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 6) — Martial law will remain in effect in Mindanao until the end of the year as the Supreme Court (SC) junked petitions to lift it.

Voting 10-5 on Tuesday, the Supreme Court justices upheld the extension of military rule in Mindanao.

Those who voted to reject the martial law extension were Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, and Associate Justices Marvic Leonen, Francis Jardaleza, and Alfredo Caguioa.

The court found "sufficient, factual bases" in Congress' approval of President Rodrigo Duterte's request for a one-year extension of martial law in Mindanao, said SC Spokesperson Theodore Te.

The decision to allow the extension until December 31, 2018 was constitutional, Te added, quoting the SC ruling.

It dismisses four petitions questioning the martial law extension. They were filed by a group of congressmen led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate and Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao; former Commission on Human Rights chair Etta Rosales; and a group led by Christian Monsod, one of the framers of the Constitution.

The government's top lawyer who defended martial law extension in oral arguments thanked the SC for its favorable ruling.

READ: SolGen: Petitioners should not fear martial law extension in Mindanao  

"This legal victory will usher in the prosperity of Mindanao after the rebellion is quelled," Solicitor General Jose Calida said in a statement.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who is also the martial law administrator, said the decision will boost the morale of government troopers to better safeguard public safety.

"The whole of government can now fully pursue with great vigor its efforts in ending the continuing rebellion in Mindanao decisively," Lorenzana said.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines, in a statement, also said it will continue to perform its duty to protect the people from rebel forces.

Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Ronald dela Rosa likewise highlighted the need for martial law.

"Malaki ang maitutulong niyan sa problem natin sa terrorism at saka sa insurgency (That will be of great help in addressing terrorism and insurgency)," Dela Rosa said.

He said Duterte wants the police force to take an active role in fighting armed communist rebels. The President has cited threats from the New People's Army as one of the reasons for requesting martial law extension.

Senate President Koko Pimentel, meanwhile, said the SC justices did the right thing. "They should defer to the 'political branches' when it comes to matters like this," he said.

Senators Panfilo Lacson and Sonny Angara both said the SC just upheld the government's separation of powers, as the martial law issue must be resolved by the legislative and executive branches.

Petitioner: Duterte influenced SC ruling

Lagman, opposition lawmaker and one of the petitioners, believes the decision was politicized, citing Duterte's influence over majority of the justices.

"There is no more court of last resort. It is a court of no resort," Lagman said, adding that the High Court's latest ruling "emboldens the president to continue violating the rule of law."

Meanwhile, Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano warned the Supreme Court decision can pave the way for Duterte to place the entire country under martial law.

"What will stop the Duterte administration now to declare martial law in the entire country? Kung ang basis pala ng pag-extend ng martial law in Mindanao is the attacks of the New People's Army, it can apply also to other areas in the country therefore," Alejano said.

National Union of Peoples' Lawyers Secretary General Edre Olalia also warned of human rights violations.

"When there is martial law, human rights violations follow as a matter of course," he said.

Martial law was supposed to end on Dec. 31, 2017, based on the first extension requested by the President when the initial declaration lapsed on July 23 that year.

Duterte placed Mindanao under martial law on May 23, 2017 in response to a terror attack on Marawi City. The siege lasted for five months, but government officials said military rule was still needed in the wake of continuing rebellion in Mindanao, which is a requirement for martial law under the Constitution.

CNN Philippines' Anjo Alimario, Joyce Ilas, and Ver Marcelo contributed to this report.