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Petitioners: Establishment of ISIS province in Mindanao not possible

Some opposition lawmakers are unconvinced that President Rodrigo had placed Mindanao under martial law to thwart plans of local terror group Maute and their sympathizers to establish a caliphate for international terror organization ISIS.

In a memorandum submitted to the Supreme Court on Monday, the five congressmen led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman dismissed as propaganda the claims that Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups are establishing an ISIS wilayah or province in southern Philippines.

The lawmakers said the ISIS province "will not germinate."

"It is ironic that ISIS has not responded to this but the government has considered it a factual verity, thus making the government a purveyor of terrorist propaganda," the memorandum stated.

"The ISIS presence in Mindanao and support of terrorist groups in Mindanao lack concrete validation. The Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups are not affiliated with ISIS because ISIS has not bestowed on them recognition."

They said ISIS has declared 10 countries as part of its “caliphate” and these “ISIS provinces” are Kenya, Somalia, Nigeria, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"The Philippines is not included," the lawmakers stressed.

They maintained that terrorism does not equate to rebellion, the ground cited by Duterte in imposing martial rule.

"Verily, it is baseless for the President to conclude that Marawi City is under 'siege' amounting to rebellion because the armed resistance of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups was not to capture Marawi City but to divert the attention of the military offensive and shield [Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon] Hapilon and the Maute brothers from capture," the memorandum read.

"Under these circumstances, staging a rebellion was farthest from the minds of the terrorists who were engaged in pintakasi to help embattled comrades from a superior government military force."

The Lagman group said there was no sufficient factual basis for the declaration of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of writ of habeas corpus in Marawi City and the whole of Mindanao, as there was no actual rebellion being committed when the proclamation was issued on May 23.

Lagman also said there was no confidential information disclosed by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Año during the closed-door session with SC justices on June 15.

"The Honorable Supreme Court has given respondents General Año and Defense Secretary Lorenzana the full discretion to disclose to the public the facts in their PowerPoint presentations," the memorandum said.

"The personal assessment of petitioner Lagman, who was allowed to attend the internal session and executive session of the Honorable Court, is that there was nothing confidential in the presentation that would affect national security or impair operational strategies."

Joining Lagman in the petition are Representatives Tomasito Villarin, Gary Alejano, Emmanuel Billones and Teddy Brawner Baguilat, Jr.

Activists and militant lawmakers, on the other hand, argued that to recognize the validity of Proclamation 216 creates a "dangerous precedent" that not only destroys the safeguards under the Constitution, but may provide the excuse for the possible declaration of martial law in the entire country.

"If respondents’ (government) arguments were allowed, all these safeguards will be completely obliterated by a President who controls Congress and continuously intimidates the judiciary," read the memorandum filed by the group of activists and militant lawmakers, namely  ACT Teachers' party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio, Gabriela Women's Party Rep. Arlene Brosas and Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Jane Elago.

"Martial law can be declared anywhere, anytime on grounds that there is rebellion in the country. Or that there is imminent danger of an armed public uprising somewhere using lawless violence in one city as the omnipresent and omniscient factual basis," they said.

The other petition was filed by the group of four female Marawi residents.

The SC is expected to come out with a decision on or before July 5 in compliance with the constitutional provision that mandates the high court to resolve a petition questioning the factual basis of martial law within 30 days. —KBK, GMA News