MANILA- A Supreme Court magistrate on Tuesday quizzed a military intelligence officer on incidents the government raised to justify the extension of martial law in Mindanao until yearend, as the high court held oral arguments on petitions against it.
Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, who was first to ask questions, prepared tables based on documents attached to the Office of the Solicitor General’s (OSG) comment and monthly military reports submitted by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
By practice, the justice first to ask questions is the one in charge of the case.
Caguioa noted inconsistencies in government reports on alleged violent incidents.
For example, one incident was attributed to the Abu Sayyaf Group in the annex to the comment while in the monthly military report, it was attributed to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
He also noted that in 66 incidents attributed to the Abu Sayyaf, 7 IED incidents and 27 various incidents had no perpetrators.
In other entries, he said perpetrators were indicated as “believed to be members of the ASG” while 17 incidents had both no perpetrators and motives indicated.
“If reports do not identify perpetrators, what is the basis for attributing these to ASG?” he asked.
Some 49 of the 66 incidents also had no motives indicated, Caguioa added.
In 7 cases that had both perpetrators and motives listed, some of the incidents involved a family feud or an ASG member killing another ASG member.
Caguioa wanted to know how these incidents were related to the alleged ongoing rebellion.
In presenting government's side, a military official had cited the twin blast in Jolo, Sulu on Sunday in asserting the imperative for keeping Mindanao under martial rule.
Caguioa's scrutiny continued into the list of incidents attributed to the BIFF, the Daulah Islamiyah group, and the New People's Army.
These groups were allegedly engaged in rebellion against the government, justifying the extension of martial law in Mindanao.
President Rodrigo Duterte first declared martial rule in Mindanao after clashes between state troops and terrorists erupted in Marawi City in May 2017. He has sought three extensions since, the latest maintaining military rule in the region until the end of the year.
Major General Pablo Lorenzo, the AFP deputy chief of staff for intelligence, was not required to answer each of Caguioa’s points.
Instead, Caguioa advised the OSG and the AFP to include in their memorandum due on February 1 updates on the perpetrators and motives of these incidents as well explanations on how these could be used as justifications for the extension of martial law.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, meanwhile, only had 1 question for Lorenzo: “Is there an ongoing armed rebellion in Marawi City?”
Lorenzo said: “Not in Marawi City, your honor.”
Firefights in Marawi City ceased in October 2017, and government has initiated rehabilitation efforts.