President Rodrigo Duterte expresses his high praises to the troops of the 1st Infantry Battalion (1IB) who were preparing to leave at the Laguindingan Airport in Cagayan de Oro City on October 20, 2017. The 1IB were among the first units deployed in Marawi City when the battle against the terrorists broke out almost five months ago.
Ace Morandante/Presidential Photo
Petitioners: Duterte 'belittled' NPA threat, why extend martial law?
Kristine Joy Patag (philstar.com) - January 8, 2018 - 2:30pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte himself belittled the threat posed by communist rebels—the existence of whom he cited for extending the martial law rule in Mindanao, petitioners said.

Duterte's year-long martial law extension is facing a new challenge before the Supreme Court as members of opposition groups on Tuesday filed a petition challenging its factual basis. The petition was filed by the National Union of People's Lawyers and representatives from human rights group Karapatan and the Kabataan, Anakpawis, Bayan Muna, ACT Teachers' and Gabriela Women's party-lists.

In his letter to Congress, Duterte cited continued threats from Islamic State-linked extremists, local terrorists and communist rebels as the primary reason to justify the extension of martial law for another year.

But the petitioners argued: "No less than President Duterte himself belittled the capacity of the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front in substantially impairing the functioning or supplanting the civilian government or authority as he said 'even if we have to fight each other for another one hundred years, they cannot occupy and control one barangay,'" the 34-paged petition reads.

"'They cannot even capture one barangay, that's the truth,'" the petitioners, quoting Duterte, said in their appeal.

Duterte said this in a speech on May 20, 2017, following his meeting with allegd NPA leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon and National Democratic Front of the Philippines negotiator Fidel Agcaoili.

Rebellion by CPP-NPA?

"The National Security Policy 2017-2022, approved by President Duterte in April 2017 claimed that the CPP-NPA, from a peak of 26,000 in 1980s, has been reduced to 4,000," the petitioners pointed out.

The opposition groups raised that the government, in its National Security Policy 2017-2022, cited that the CPP-NPA force dwindled from being 26,000-strong in 1980s to 4,000.

This, according to the petitioners, does not qualify as sufficient factual basis to impose martial law and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

"According to the government itself, the CPP-NPA rebellion had not significantly impaired the functioning of civilian courts and local governments and authorities' hence said rebellion does not warrant the imposition of martial law as the constitutional standard of public safety is not met," the petitioners said.

Red-tagging

The petitioners also raised that the ground used by Duterte "opens floodgates" for attacks against any individual.

"Historical and contemporary experience indubitably prove that the monster of Martial law has targeted and will target civilians who have no participation at all in any armed uprising or struggle," the appeal read.

"The inclusion of alleged 'coddlers,' 'supporters,' and 'financiers' opens the floodgates to further attacks against just about anybody," the petitioners said.

With the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus suspended in Mindanao for another year, authorities are empowered to resort to warrantless arrests.

Abuse of this power characterized the years of martial law rule of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos Sr. Amnesty International estimated that some 70,000 were imprisoned, 34,000 were tortured and 3,320 were killed during the Marcos' rule.

"The vagueness and ambiguity of said pronouncement sends a chilling effect that violates the people's right to exercise vital freedoms and liberties," the petitioners also said.

This is the second petition filed against Duterte's year-long extension of martial law and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao.

Opposition lawmakers, led by Rep. Edcel Lagman (Albay), filed their petition on December 27. They pointed out that under the 1987 Constitution, the phrase "imminent danger" was deleted, as part of the safeguards against abuse of power.

"'Rebellion' or 'invasion' is neither a state of mind nor state of fear. It must be actual, not contingent. It must be real, not contrived," the petition read.

MARTIAL LAW
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