SC upholds constitutionality of martial law in Mindanao

Theodore Te, spokesperson of the Supreme Court announced Tuesday, December 5,  that the directive was issued following Tuesday’s regular en banc session of the magistrates.

Voting 10-3-1, the SC dismissed the separate appeals of the three petitioners to the July 4 ruling for mootness and lack of merit.

“Denied with finality for mootness and lack of merits all three Motions for Reconsideration filed by petitioners from the Court’s decision dated July 4, 2017,” Te said during the press briefing.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, and Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa — who all believe the coverage of the 60-day martial rule should be limited to some areas only — voted to partially grant the motions for reconsideration.

Only Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, who voted against Duterte’s Proclamation 216, sided with the appeals while Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza was on leave and did not vote.

The consolidated petitions filed by opposition lawmakers led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, local Mindanao leaders led by Lumad leader Eufemia Campos Cullamat, and a group of women from Marawi led by Norkaya Mohamad, challenged the legality of Duterte’s Proclamation No. 216 imposing a military rule and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao after terrorists occupied Marawi City on May 23.

In its ruling, the SC said there was sufficient factual basis for the declaration of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus following the Maute group-led attacks in Marawi on May 23.

”The Court found that there was sufficient factual basis for the declaration of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus over the whole of Mindanao,” read the decision.

According to the high court, the power to determine the scope of territorial application of martial law belongs to the President and that there is no constitutional provision that such emergency power should be implemented only in the place where actual rebellion exists.

The government had repeatedly said martial law was necessary to quell rebellion since ISIS-inspired local rebel groups had taken up arms against the Philippine government to secede Mindanao from the republic and to deprive Duterte of his powers and prerogatives.

The ruling was penned by Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, while the 10 justices who concurred were Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Jose Mendoza, Bienvenido Reyes, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Francis Jardeleza, Samuel Martires, and Noel Tijam.

The SC issued its final ruling as President Duterte is set to decide whether to extend the martial law declaration, which will lapse by the end of the year.

Last July, the Supreme Court also dismissed the consolidated mandamus petitions urging the Senate and House of Representatives to convene in joint session and review President Rodrigo Duterte’s Proclamation 216 declaring martial law and suspending the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao.

The magistrates voted unanimously to dismiss the two petitions filed by two separate groups led by former senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada, both seeking issuance of a mandamus that would compel the Senate and the House of Representatives to convene jointly to review the declaration.

”Voting unanimously, dismissed the petitions on the ground that Congress did not gravely abuse its discretion in not convening jointly upon the President’s issuance of Proclamation No. 216 (S. of 2017) as Article VII, Sec. 18 imposes no such duty on Congress to convene, such duty (to convene and vote) being limited to instances where Congress intends to revoke or extend any proclamation of martial law or suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus,” read the decision.

Thirteen of them held that the high court cannot compel Congress, agreeing with the argument of the Office of the Solicitor General that it has no power to issue the mandamus due to the separation of powers of the judiciary and the legislature as coequal branches.

De Castro penned the ruling on the petitions.-PNA