End martial law? Lorenzana warns vs another Marawi

NUEVA ECIJA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Talking before the elite units of the Philippine Army on Monday, January 8, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana ordered the troops to prepare for a repeat of the Marawi siege in “another city” in the Philippines. 

Lorenzana made the statement in the wake of petitions asking the Supreme Court to stop the extension of martial law in Mindanao. Petitioners are saying the basis for the declaration last year – the 5-month-long Marawi siege – is over and there is no “actual rebellion” anymore.

Congress has granted the request of President Rodrigo Duterte to extend martial law until end-December 2018

But Lorenzana argued there is a “continuing rebellion” that could trigger another urban warfare in another city in the Philippines. He said the armed forces are preparing to defend the extension of martial before the Supreme Court.

“It started in May and continued until October. It is the belief of the armed forces and the police that there is continuing reorganization of the rebellious forces. They would again conduct a Marawi-type operations sometime in the future. I also believe in that,” Lorenzana said.

“We are preparing  our briefing to the Supreme Court. If and when the Supreme Court calls us to give a briefing on the extension of martial law, we will be going there with the Solicitor General and other lawyers,” Lorenzana said.

“We will follow the same argument that we presented last time, in July, when we also went to the Supreme Court,” Lorenzana said.

Leftist groups represented by the National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL) asked the High Court to issue an urgent temporary restraining order on the extended martial law while the court reviews the declaration that they argued should be ruled “null and void.”

It’s the second petition filed with the High Court, echoing the arguments of the first petition filed by members of the opposition in the House of Representatives.

The defense chief was at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija on Monday to lead a ceremony installing new commanders at the Philippine Army Special Operations Command (Socom).

Major General Ronnie Evangelista assumed as Socom chief to replace Lieutenant General Danilo Pamonag, who moved to the Southern Luzon Command. Pamonag was the ground commander in Marawi during the siege.

Martial law in Mindanao was declared and extended in 2017 because of clashes in Marawi City between the militry and armed groups linked with the international terrorist network Islamic State.

NUPL said the government can no longer claim an actual rebellion after the city was declared liberated in October.

On Monday, Solicitor General Jose Calida echoed Lorenzana’s argument in the 58-page comment that his office filed with SC in response to the first petition against the martial law extension. 

“There is rebellion in Mindanao. Until the rebellion is quelled, there is reason to extend Martial Law and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus,” Calida said, asking the High Court to dismiss the petition filed by opposition congressmen led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman.

Calida said groups like the “communists-terrorists” (CT), the Abu Sayyaf Group, and the remnants, protectors, and supporters of the Daesh-inspired Da'awatul Islamiyah Waliyatul Masriq (DIWM) threaten public safety. They also prevent the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in Marawi City.

These terrorist groups, he said, also work against “the attainment of lasting peace, stability, economic development and prosperity in Mindanao.”

The Solicitor General continued: “The secon extension of the implementation of Martial Law, coupled with the continued suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao, will significantly help not only the [Armed Forces of the Philippines], but also the other stakeholders in quelling and putting an end to the ongoing DAESH-inspired DIWM groups and CT-staged rebellion, and in restoring public order, safety, and stability in Mindanao.” 

Calida also sought to have the Lagman group’s petition dismissed on a technicality: “Petitioners committed a terrible blunder. They failed to attach the adverted 'Joint Resolution' of Congress upon which they pin their allegation of arbitrariness.” 

“Moreover, they trace the arbitrariness to the absence of an actual rebellion. Petitioners are unmindful that the Supreme Court already declared in Lagman v. Medialdea the existence of rebellion in Mindanao. Such fact is now beyond question,” he said. – Rappler.com