Supreme Court backs mar­tial law in south­ern Philip­pines

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The Philip­pines’ Supreme Court yes­ter­day en­dorsed Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte’s en­force­ment of mar­tial law across the south­ern third of the coun­try, which he said was nec­es­sary to de­feat Is­lamic State group-backed mil­i­tants. Duterte im­posed mil­i­tary rule across the in­sur­gency-wracked re­gion of Min­danao on May 23, hours af­ter hun­dreds of gun­men wav­ing black IS flags oc­cu­pied parts of Marawi city and trig­gered deadly clashes that are yet to end.

Op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers ques­tioned why a re­gion of 20 mil­lion peo­ple had to go un­der mil­i­tary rule when fighters just struck Marawi, urg­ing the Supreme Court to strike it down for its “ut­ter lack of suf­fi­cient fac­tual ba­sis”. An over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of the jus­tices dis­missed that pe­ti­tion, Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te told re­porters, but he did not give rea­sons for their de­ci­sion. Duterte stressed yes­ter­day he had made the right de­ci­sion, say­ing “mar­tial law should have been de­clared a long time ago” when mil­i­tants be­gan bomb­ings, kid­nap­pings and be­head­ings across Min­danao. “For as long as there is one ter­ror­ist there in Marawi, this (threat) will not stop,” he told re­porters, warn­ing of a po­ten­tial “spillover” to other ar­eas.

Mil­i­tants con­tinue to oc­cupy parts of Marawi, the Is­lamic heart­land of the mainly Catholic coun­try, de­spite a US-backed mil­i­tary of­fen­sive there that has claimed more than 460 lives and dis­placed nearly 400,000 peo­ple. Duterte said when he de­clared mar­tial law the mil­i­tants had at­tacked Marawi as part of a plan to es­tab­lish a prov­ince for IS in the south­ern Philip­pines, which has en­dured decades of deadly con­flict in­volv­ing com­mu­nist and Mus­lim sep­a­ratist rebels.

In their court pe­ti­tion, op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers warned mar­tial law would open the door to re­pres­sion and atroc­i­ties seen dur­ing the 20-year rule of the late dic­ta­tor Fer­di­nand Mar­cos that ended with a “Peo­ple Power” rev­o­lu­tion in 1986.

Dur­ing the Mar­cos dic­ta­tor­ship, thou­sands of sus­pected com­mu­nist and Mus­lim in­sur­gents, as well as his crit­ics, were jailed, tor­tured or killed, ac­cord­ing to his­to­ri­ans. ‘In­va­sion or re­bel­lion’ When Duterte an­nounced mar­tial law, he praised Mar­cos’s ver­sion while vow­ing his own would be “harsh”. Duterte also warned mar­tial law could be ex­tended be­yond 60 days and ex­panded across the coun­try if he felt it nec­es­sary. “I urge you to re­main stead­fast and alert as mar­tial law in Min­danao will re­main in ef­fect to counter the per­sis­tent threat of ter­ror­ism and in­sur­gency,” he told troops. As part of his mar­tial law mea­sures, Duterte al­lowed se­cu­rity forces to de­tain sus­pects for up to three days with­out prior court or­ders. The gov­ern­ment has de­tained 66 peo­ple us­ing th­ese pow­ers for their links to the Marawi con­flict, in­clud­ing the par­ents of broth­ers who are key mil­i­tant lead­ers. Duterte had re­peat­edly threat­ened to ig­nore the find­ings of the court if it ruled against him, vow­ing only to lis­ten to the rec­om­men­da­tions of the mil­i­tary.

“They are not sol­diers. They do not know what is hap­pen­ing on the ground,” Duterte said of the Supreme Court jus­tices, as he also threat­ened to put mar­tial law crit­ics in jail. Re­nato Reyes, leader of the left­ist Bayan party, is­sued a warn­ing about the court rul­ing. “We feel that the court has now made it eas­ier to de­clare mar­tial law na­tion­wide, it has pro­vided the le­gal ba­sis for ex­tend­ing mar­tial law be­yond 60 days,” Reyes added. Un­der the con­sti­tu­tion drawn up to pre­vent a re­peat of Mar­cos-era abuses, the pres­i­dent is al­lowed to de­clare mar­tial law only to pre­vent “in­va­sion or re­bel­lion”.

It is lim­ited ini­tially to 60 days, and Duterte must get con­gres­sional ap­proval to ex­tend it. Philip­pine mil­i­tary chief Gen­eral Ed­uardo Ano wel­comed the court rul­ing while warn­ing in a state­ment that “the mis­sion is not yet done”. “The (mil­i­tary) takes this as a vote of con­fi­dence that we are do­ing what is right and what is nec­es­sary for the restora­tion of the rule of law, peace and or­der in the whole is­land,” he added. Maria Christina Yam­bot, coun­sel for one of the law­mak­ers who pe­ti­tioned the court said they would file an ap­peal ask­ing the tri­bunal to over­turn its rul­ing, which she de­scribed as a “dan­ger­ous prece­dent”. —AFP

PAMPANGA: Philip­pine troops stand at at­ten­tion as Pres­i­den­tial chop­pers bear­ing Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte pre­pare to land for the 70th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion of the Philip­pine Air Force at Clark Freeport Zone yes­ter­day in Pampanga prov­ince, north of Manila. —AP

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