Marawi crisis not grounds for martial law – petitioners

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 13) — The crisis in Marawi City is not an act of rebellion, therefore it is not grounds for the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

This, according to Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman who stood as a counsel for petitioners against the declaration of martial rule before the Supreme Court.

"The alleged 'siege' of Marawi City is actually an armed resistance by the Maute Group to shield Hapilon from capture, not to overrun Marawi and remove its allegiance from the Republic," Lagman told the high court Tuesday.

During the first of the three-day oral arguments before the high court, Lagman defended challenging President Rodrigo Duterte's Proclamation 216 or the proclamation of martial law and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the entire region last May 23.

Lagman argued that acts of terrorism did not necessarily equate to actual rebellion.

"There is no actual rebellion in Marawi City and elsewhere in Mindanao absent the culpable purpose," Lagman said.

Read more: House minority files petition vs. martial law in Supreme Court

The Revised Penal Code states rebellion is the act of removing allegiance to the government by rising and taking arms against it, or depriving government to perform its role. The Human Security Act lists terrorism as an act of rebellion.

Duterte said he imposed martial law in the entire Mindanao due to security problems in Marawi City, Sulu, Zamboanga peninsula, Central Mindanao, and the Davao Region.

Solicitor General Jose Calida, who is defending the President's proclamation, is confident they will win the case.

"Ang dami naming depensa. Mas matindi ang depensa namin dito kesa depensa ng Maute," Calida said in an interview after the arguments.

[Translation: We have many defenses. Our defense is stronger than the defense of Maute."]

"Sino ba ang Filipino na hindi naniniwala na may rebelyon ngayon? Nakikita niyo araw-araw. Kayo media you're covering it. Nandoon lahat ng elements ng rebellion," Calida added.

[Translation: Are there Filipinos who do not believe a rebellion is happening now? You see it every day, media is covering it. All the elements of rebellion are there.]

Under the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the President, as commander-in-chief, may declare martial law "in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it".

Associate Justice: ISIS flags not act of rebellion?

Supreme Court Associate Justice Mariano Del Castillo asked Lagman if the movements of the Maute members — planting ISIS flags in the city — did not constitute rebellion.

Lagman said this was a cause for concern, but it was not indicative of rebellion.

But the Associate Justice said the Maute members were trying to replace the local government with their own by the act of planting ISIS flags.

"They are precisely putting up their flag there to supplant the authority of the local government with their own, in effect they're trying to remove allegiance of Marawi City from the government," Del Castillo said.

Lagman argued the planting of ISIS flags in Marawi was part of "cheap propaganda."

Lagman: Duterte shouldn't act in solitude

"The Armed Forces, the military, and Defense establishment should be able to advise and counsel the president on the realities on the ground before any action should be taken by the President. That's why we said there should be prior consultation and subsequent recommendation," Lagman said.

Lagman said martial law would only result in "abuses, atrocities and repression of human rights and civil liberties reminiscent of Marcos' martial law."

The Commission on Human Rights recorded at least 20,000 complaints of human rights abuses during the martial law of former President Ferdinand Marcos.

Lagman and his fellow petitioners said they were seeking the nullification of Proclamation No. 216 to prevent the recurrence of the misuse and abuse of martial law.

The Supreme Court will hear the three consolidated petitions challenging the declaration of martial law in Mindanao until June 15.

Read more: SC to hold oral arguments this week on martial law case

CNN Philippines' Correspondent Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.