MANILA -- State lawyers on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court (SC) to turn down the petition filed before the court, which challenges the validity of the extension of martial law in Mindanao.
In a 50-page comment, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) pointed out that conditions warranting the extension of martial law did not end with the cessation of the Marawi City siege by extremist groups.
The OSG also insisted that there is "sufficient factual basis to extend the duration of the effectivity of martial law since rebellion persists in Mindanao and (that) public safety requires the extension."
Solicitor General Jose Calida also underscored that Congress has the sole authority to allow or deny any extension of martial law, explaining that the petitioners in the case failed to show that they will be prejudiced by the extension of martial law.
"Petitioners do not have a clear and unmistakable legal right to prevent the implementation of the extension of martial law in Mindanao," he said.
Among other things, the top government counsel also pointed out is that communist terrorist groups have pursued recruitment campaigns in Mindanao, leading to more lawlessness and violence.
No less than 181 persons in the martial law arrest orders have remained at large, Calida underscored.
"Despite the dwindling strength and capabilities of the local terrorist rebel groups, the recent bombings that transpired in Mindanao that collectively killed 16 people and injured 63 others in less than two months is a testament on how lethal and ingenious terrorist attacks have become," he noted.
The OSG also stressed that Mindanao remains to be the hotbed of the communist insurgency, citing that eight of the 14 active provinces in terms of communist rebel insurgency are on the island.
Likewise, the SC said Congress has the sole power to extend martial law and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, noting that the Constitution does not limit the period for which martial law can be extended.
The petitioners, led by Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman, the OSG said, is procedurally infirm for failing to implead as parties both houses of Congress, which issued the resolution.
"In Lagman vs. Pimentel, the Supreme Court pronounced that the extension granted by the Congress upon the President's request has become a joint action or a collective judgment between the Executive and the Legislature. Simply put, without congressional action, the proclamation of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus would not have been extended in the first place. As such, the Congress is indisputably an indispensable party in this petition," the OSG added.
"(P)etitioners are legislators who actively participated and cast their votes as members of the Congress during the consideration, deliberation and voting on the resolution approving the request for extension of martial law and suspension of the writ of habeas corpus by the President. They cannot run to the court to defeat the wisdom of the majority of the members of Congress and ask for an injunction," the OSG said.
Citing again the SC's previous rulings, the OSG said sufficient legal safeguards are in place against human rights abuses.
The SC has set the oral arguments on the petition on January 22 and 23.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23, 2017 after Maute terrorists attacked Marawi City.
Martial law in Mindanao has thrice been granted extension, with the most recent from January 1 to Dec. 31, 2019.