Supreme Court OKs third martial law extension in Mindanao

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 19) — There's no stopping martial law in Mindanao after the Supreme Court again junked petitions against it.

Voting 9-4, the High Court on Tuesday upheld the third extension of military rule in Mindanao, until December 31 this year. The magistrates who voted against it are Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Marvic Leonen, Francis Jardeleza, and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa.

The Supreme Court has yet to release its decision which will explain why the continuous implementation of martial law and suspension of the privilege of the writ of the habeas corpus, allowing warrantless arrests, were constitutional.

The decision followed oral arguments in January on four petitions against martial law filed by groups led by Albay First District Rep. Edcel Lagman, the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives, lawyer Christian Monsod, and some residents of Mindanao. They argued that martial law should be lifted since the Marawi siege has ended with the defeat of terrorists led by the ISIS-linked Maute group.

President Rodrigo Duterte first declared martial law in the island region in May 2017 as government forces fought with terrorists in Marawi City, capital of Lanao del Sur.

The Constitution allows the President to declare martial law "in case of invasion or rebellion (or) when the public safety requires it" for a period of 60 days - but Congress has granted all three requests for an extension as President Rodrigo Duterte said military rule is needed to quell the ongoing rebellion in Mindanao.

The Supreme Court also previously junked all petitions to lift martial law in Mindanao.

The Office of the Solicitor General, the government's top lawyer, welcomed the court's latest decision as "a significant step towards achieving lasting peace in Mindanao."

However, critics insisted there is no need for martial law, accusing the high court of subservience to the executive branch.

"For the third time, the Supreme Court has decided to disregard our Constitution and has bowed down to the whims of the Executive branch," Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano said in a statement.

"The Court's decision is not made on the basis of actual, admissible evidence but rather on speculation or conjecture that invasion or rebellion exists in Mindanao," Akbayan Party-list Rep. Tom Villarin said in a separate statement.

CNN Philippines' Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.