The extension "lacks the factual basis required by the Constitution" because there is no actual rebellion in Mindanao after the defeat of the terrorists in Marawi City, argued the petition filed by the National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL).
The NUPL represents a string of petitioners that include leftist party-list organizations and human rights advocacy groups.
"After due hearing and deliberation, declare null and void the extension of the period of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus for lack of sufficient factual basis," read the prayer of the petition, which was accepted by the High Court at 11:25 am Monday.
The petition warned that martial law extension is "actually more a threat against dissenters and activists" and the real agenda is to declare martial law nationwide to silence President Rodrigo Duterte's critics especially from the Church, the media, and the organizations that the petitioners represent.
The petition echoes the arguments raised by opposition lawmakers who filed the first petition in December. The Supreme Court gave the government 10 days to respond.
"This is a violation of the Constitution which only allows the imposition of martial law when there is actual rebellion and when the operations of civilian government are substantially impaired that public safety should be preserved. The government is functioning in Davao City and the entire country, so why replace it with martial rule?” said NUPL chairman Neri Colmenares, who previously served as Bayan Muna party-list representative.
"Justifying martial law on grounds such as the rehabilitation of Marawi, or to ‘completely’ eradicate the rebels are not grounds under the Constitution. Allowing these dangerously vague grounds will pave the way for President Rodrigo Duterte’s imposition of martial law in the entire county since he can claim that there are rebels even in Metro Manila. We will have a '24/7 convenience store martial law' that is imposed at all hours every day of the week in the entire country. This cannot be allowed," Colmenares added.
The petition warned against a nationwide martial law coverage that will target the government's critics.
The petition noted how an extended martial law expanded the targets to include not only the communist New People's Army but their so-called “supporters, financiers and coddlers” of the communist New People's Army (NPA).
This is how sectors in the military see the organizations that the petitioners represent.
"The reason why government has failed to explain what specific martial law powers it really needs against the armed groups is because their real agenda is nationwide martial law against critics. This martial law is nothing more than to give President Duterte broad powers to attack those who disagree with him. We ask members of the legal profession and the Filipino people to oppose martial law and a return to dark days of the Marcos dictatorship," the NUPL lawyers said. – Rappler.com