April 20, 2018, 10:53 pm
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20 more terror groups on the loose in Mindanao

TWENTY other terrorist groups, aside from the Maute and Abu Sayyaf, are operating in Mindanao, Solicitor General Jose Calida yesterday told the Supreme Court in asking it to junk the petitions challenging President Duterte’s imposition of martial law in Mindanao.

Calida said the presence of the 20 other terrorist groups shows that martial law is indeed needed for the sake of public safety.

He told the SC that the other terrorist groups have already conducted terror attacks in Mindanao particularly in the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga and Davao.

“In determining whether sufficient factual basis exists, this Honorable Court should not limit itself to the tragic Marawi city siege. The vicious and destructive acts by these groups are numerous and continuous, and have been taken into account by President Rodrigo Duterte before issuing Proclamation No.216,” he told the justices.

“They actually wanted to establish a stronghold in the region and deprive duly-constituted authorities of their powers and prerogatives,” he added.

Calida said the 20 other terrorist groups are the Rajah Solaiman Movement, Al Harakatul Islamiyah Battalion, Ansar Dawiah Fi Filibbin, Ansharul Khilafah Philippine Battalion, Jama’at Ansar Khilafa, Bangsamoro Justice Movement, Abu Sayyaf (Sulu Faction), Syuful khilafa Fi Luzon, Khilafah Islamiya Mindanao, Abu Dujanah Battalion, Jamaah al-Tawhid wal Jihad Philippines, Dawlat Al Islamiyah Waliyatul Masrik, Dawla Islamiyyah Cotabato, Marakah Al-Ansar Battalion, Jundallah Battalion, Abu Khubayn Battalion, Abu Sadr Battalion, Jamaah Al Muhajirin Wal Anshar and the Balik Islam Group.

Calida said the magnitude of what happened in Marawi city and how it endangers the safety of the populace in Mindanao validated the declaration of martial law as well as the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

“As the survival of the State hangs in the balance, I implore the Honorable Supreme Court to 

sustain the constitutionality of Proclamation No.216 and allow the President to perform his constitutional mandate of protecting the people,” he urged.

In their separate memoranda which were submitted to the SC yesterday, petitioners against the constitutionality of Duterte’s martial law declaration led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, local Mindanao leaders led by Eufemia Campos Cullamat and a group of women from Marawi city led by Norkaya Mohamad asked the SC to nullify the President’s order due to lack of sufficient factual basis.

“The President is required to take into account only the situation at the time of the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the writ, even if subsequent events prove the situation to have not been accurately reported,” the petitioners said.

They also said the video clip purportedly depicting a planning session of the Maute brothers and Isnilon Hapilon to lay “siege” on Marawi City was recovered on the second day after the proclamation and consequently, it was not an input as factual basis for the declaration and suspension. They said the video tape was not mentioned in the Proclamation or Report.

Two other petitions filed by the groups of former senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tanada both urged the SC to compel the Senate and the House of Representatives to convene jointly and deliberate on the President’s proclamation.

But Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez said he believes there is no need for Congress to convene a joint session to give its approval to the decision of President Duterte to place Mindanao under martial law.

Marquez made the statement when he faced the Judicial and Bar Council yesterday where he is one of 12 applicants for a post in the Supreme Court to be left vacant by the retirement next month of Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes.

Marquez, who was endorsed by the Philippine Judges Association, said he believes Congress will only convene if it intends to revoke the martial law declaration.

Article VII, Section 18 of the Constitution states that Congress may revoke the martial law declaration by voting jointly or by a vote of at least a majority of all members of Congress in regular or special session.

Rep. Gary Alejano (PL, Magdalo) said Duterte was obviously bluffing when he said he was going to pull out troops once martial law is revoked.

“Military operations can continue, which is the case in the past even without martial law. However, his consistent mentioning of martial law is a way of conditioning the minds of the people that he will resort to it in the future. This is dangerous,” he said.

Alejano said the President is trying to say that “military operation is synonymous to martial law, that in the event martial is struck down by the SC he will pull out the military from Marawi.”

“This is disinformation, (he is) trying to deceive the people because the calling out powers of the President would not be affected by the adverse ruling of the SC,” said the opposition lawmaker.

Rep. Teddy Baguilat (LP, Ifugao), also a member of the seven-man opposition bloc, said it was “comforting that he (Duterte) acknowledges the authority of the SC to revoke martial law.”

“In case that happens, troops should still remain in Marawi until the city is cleared of the Maute forces and the threat is contained. Deployment of the military to fight insurgency and terrorism are regular functions of the military. Meaning we should not equate martial law declaration to mobilization of troops or make martial law a precondition to strong counter-terrorism actions,” he said. – With Wendell Vigilia and JP Lopez 
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