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SC consolidates petitions seeking to nullify martial law in Mindanao

Ahead of the oral arguments next week, the Supreme Court (SC) on Saturday ordered the consolidation of three petitions seeking to invalidate President Rodrigo Duterte's imposition of martial law in Mindanao.

This means the separate petitions filed by the group of opposition congressmen led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, activists and militant lawmakers, and four women residents of Marawi City--the center of skirmishes between government troops and local terror group Maute--would be tackled as one.

The SC, through Clerk of Court Felipa Anama, directed the Office of Solicitor General to file a consolidated comment to the petitions until 12 noon of June 12.

The lawyers of the petitioners are also required to attend the preliminary conference at 2 p.m. of June 12 as part of the preparations for the oral arguments slated for June 13 to 15.

All three petitions argued that the declaration of martial law in Mindanao should be struck down as unconstitutional for lack of sufficient factual basis, the only ground that could be raised with the SC under the Constitution.

For Lagman's group, there was no rebellion or invasion where the public safety requires the declaration of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Marawi City or elsewhere in Mindanao to implement warrantless arrests of Maute fighters or their sympathizers.

They also said mere conclusions of fact and law on the "pretended existence of rebellion and/or invasion will not serve as sufficient basis."

The group of activists and leftist lawmakers--ACT Teachers' party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio, Gabriela Women's Party Rep. Arlene Brosas and Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Jane Elago-- said the imposition of Proclamation No. 216 was "unwarranted, unjustifiable, and wholly out of proportion to the threat" posed by the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups.

"Respondents failed to prove sufficient factual basis that rebellion or at the very least incidents similar to that in Marawi are simultaneously occurring in other parts of the island," the petition read.

The petitioners noted the capability to sow terror and cause death does not make a rebellion.

The activists also said the inclusion of "other rebel groups” in the martial law proclamation is “dangerously vague and unsubstantiated” because the government allegedly failed to expound on their identities and what activities undertaken by these groups constitute rebellion.

Four women residents of Marawi, meanwhile, said the incidents in the city "do not equate to the existence of a public necessity" brought about by an actual rebellion, which would compel the imposition of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

“Had governance collapsed in Marawi at the time of the Proclamation of Martial Law? Was the violence so widespread and overwhelming that government had broken down to the extent that only the military could establish a semblance of governance? If not, then Martial Law is not warranted,” the petition read.

Petitioners Norkaya Mohamad, Sittie Nur Dyhanna Mohamad, Noraisah Sani and Zahria Muti-Mapandi also lamented the  "uncertainty of not being able to return to the place they considered home."

Two other petitions call on the SC to compel Congress to convene in a joint session to scrutinize the martial law declaration. —ALG, GMA News