“Today we weep for Mindanao, we weep for our country.”
By IAN IRVING BAZARTE
MANILA – Various progressive groups and opposition lawmakers expressed frustration with the Supreme Court’s decision issued today, July 5, affirming President Rodrigo Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao, saying that the SC has ‘reneged on its role.’
The Supreme Court, in an en banc session held today, decided to uphold the validity of Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao, dismissing the consolidated petitions filed by opposition lawmakers, four women from still-besieged Marawi City, and progressive leaders.
The frustrated petitioners said the SC decision sets a new standard of basis for the declaration of martial law, one that glosses over the plight of the people of Mindanao who are directly affected by the human rights abuses of martial law, while blindly favoring the warmongering by government and its foreign allies.
The high court voted 11-3-1, with the majority affirming martial law, while three justices voted to partially grant the petitions, or to limit Duterte’s Proclamation 216 only to the conflict area in Marawi. One voted to junk the martial law declaration.
SC Spokesperson Theodore Te said the justices’ opinions are still being finalized and will be publicly released tomorrow, July 5.
The petitioners have argued that Duterte’s martial law declaration in Mindanao is invalid because it has no factual basis.
SC decision sets a dangerous precedent
Renato Reyes Jr, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general, said they were dismayed with the SC’s decision because it favored militarists in Duterte’s cabinet, and “made it easier” for the government to find legal basis in extending martial law well beyond its 60-day limit as provided in the Constitution.
He added that with the decision, the SC also became complicit with the abuses being committed under Duterte’s martial law.
“Ang amin naman pong laban, di lang sa korte. Patuloy po kami sa kalsada (Our fight isn’t just in the court. It’s also on the streets),” he said.
Bayan picketed in front of the Supreme Court along Padre Faura as the latter issued its decision. The groups had just come from a rally at the US Embassy protesting US intervention on the occasion of the Fil-Am Friendship Day.
Atty. Maria Cristina Yambot, public information officer of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) and a counsel for one of the petitions, said they will be filing a motion for reconsideration as soon as possible, and maintained that the conditions needed for a declaration of martial law under the 1987 Constitution were not met.
“We are still calling for the rest of the Filipino nation to also study the imposition of martial law and see this as a dangerous precedent,” she said.
SC ‘reneged on its role’
In a statement, ACT Teacher’s Partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio condemned the decision, saying that the SC has “reneged on its role as last institutional rampart against abuse of the Executive’s martial law power.”
“I’m afraid that this Supreme Court will go down in history as having paved the way for state repression against citizens in the name of a prolonged and expanded martial law based on nebulous and shifting grounds,” he said.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate expressed worries about a ‘military junta’ that may eventually effectively rule in place of a proper civilian government.
“We could expect an emboldened military and police to commit more human rights violations and further endanger the lives of our people not just in Marawi but the whole of Mindanao,” he said in a statement.
Ephraim Cortez, NUPL secretary general, echoed Tinio’s opinion, adding that the government can most likely declare martial law in the whole country if they were able to do so in Mindanao “based on alternative and magnified facts as well as exaggerated scenarios.”
“Today we weep for Mindanao, we weep for our country. Notwithstanding the declaration of martial law’s legality, those responsible for the sledgehammer solution to a legitimate problem must be made to account if not by law but by history particularly for the alarming increase of human rights violations in the Mindanao region,” he said in a statement.