JANUARY 8, 2018

Says prolonged military rule targets dissent and opposition, violates rights

The National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL), a national association of human rights lawyers, assisted various individuals in a new petition against the extension of martial law, asserting that it lacks the factual basis required by the Constitution. The Petition warned that martial law is actually more a threat against dissenters and activists than armed rebels.

Martial Law was extended despite government admission that the Marawi siege is over. “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.

“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 filed by people’s organizations, progressive party list representatives and human rights advocates and joined by petitioners from Mindanao warned that President Duterte’s real target are those who dissent or oppose his policy more than armed rebel groups. The martial law extension added the NPA and their “supporters, financiers and coddlers” as broad targets of martial law.

“The military does not need martial law to shoot and arrest armed groups such as the NPA. The real targets here are ordinary activists and dissenters who are critical of President Duterte’s human rights record and anti-people policies such as people’s organizations, the church, media and independent government bodies. The massive human rights violations in Mindanao will be extended with the extension of martial law,” NUPL Secretary General Ephraim Cortez also said.

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.

In seeking an open, inclusive, thorough judicial determination of the sufficiency of the factual basis for such extension or suspension, the Petitioners asked: what is the cogent basis for extending Martial Law for a full year, way longer than the original declaration and first extension when fighting in Marawi was still ongoing? Is it not strange that the second extension is set for a period that is much longer than the period when fighting was still ongoing, there being no fighting in Marawi now? What are the parameters for setting the time frame? What would be the parameters for the possible earlier lifting of Martial Law? How will the AFP gauge their success? Or is this arbitrary or subjective and left entirely to the absolute discretion beyond the pale of legislative query or judicial review? Is Martial Law intended to quell a rebellion or is it just intended to restore public order and make government function again? If there are no parameters, then Martial Law can exist until there are rebels in Mindanao, even if such rebels do not pose a threat to public safety. These are nagging questions begging for satisfactory constitutional and factual answers.

Finally, the Petitioners through counsel concluded that if the two co-equal branches of our government abuse their powers or renege on their duty, it is incumbent on the Supreme Court to correctly check and balance excesses of governmental authority of the governors with the more fundamental and rights and liberties of the governed.#


Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares
NUPL Chairperson

Atty. Edre U. Olalia
NUPL President

Ephraim B. Cortez
NUPL Secretary General

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“By calling yourselves the ‘people’s lawyer,’ you have made a remarkable choice. You decided not to remain in the sidelines. Where human rights are assaulted, you have chosen to sacrifice the comfort of the fence for the dangers of the battlefield. But only those who choose to fight on the battlefield live beyond irrelevance.”
– Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, in his message at the NUPL Founding Congress, September 15, 2007

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– Atty. Romeo T. Capulong, NUPL founding chairperson, in his keynote address at the Fifth Conference of Lawyers in Asia Pacific ( COLAP V), September 18, 20