Supreme Court to hold oral arguments on Mindanao martial law extension on Tuesday

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 28) — The Supreme Court will hold oral arguments on the third extension of martial law in Mindanao this week even as security concerns hound the South including the deadly blasts in a Catholic cathedral in Jolo, Sulu.

Oral arguments will be held on Tuesday and Wednesday in response to petitions filed seeking to nullify the congressional decision to extend martial law in Mindanao for the third time, upon the request of President Rodrigo Duterte, until December 31, 2019. Congress, in a joint session on December 12, 2018, approved Duterte's request.

Three petitions against the decision, filed by Albay First District Rep. Edcel Lagman, the Makabayan bloc, and lawyer Christian Monsod, are pending at the high court.

The petitioners argue that the government already achieved its goal for imposing martial law in Mindanao when it ended the Marawi siege and defeated the Maute group. They said public safety in the area is "not imperiled" because rebellion "does not exist and persist."

However, the government disagreed--maintaining that rebellion still exists in Mindanao.

In his letter to Congress, Duterte enumerated bombings committed by various terror groups such as those that took place in Basilan, Sultan Kudarat, and General Santos City last year.

Calida, during the oral arguments, is expected to highlight the explosions in Jolo as basis to convince the court to allow the extension of military rule. The twin bombings, which occurred in the town's Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Sunday, killed at least 20 people and injured over a hundred others.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said military rule in Mindanao is needed in the wake of the deadly Jolo bombings on Sunday.

"They're saying that despite martial law, there has been bombing, and therefore martial law should be lifted. There's more reason that martial law should be in place," he said.

"The fact alone that there's one incident of bombing in the past year, that means martial law is effective. Can you imagine how many bombings there would have been if there was no martial law there in operation?" Panelo added.