SC upholds martial law in Mindanao

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 05 2017 02:56 AM | Updated as of Jul 05 2017 09:35 AM

(UPDATED) Voting 11-3-1, the Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday upheld President Rodrigo Duterte's Proclamation No. 216 declaring martial law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the entire southern Philippine region of Mindanao.

Duterte resorted to his extraordinary commander-in-chief powers on May 23, hours after local terror group Maute group attacked Marawi City, the country’s only Islamic
City.

The battle for control of the city entered its 43rd day on Tuesday, with 461 recorded deaths: 85 from the government side, 337 terrorists and militants, and 39 civilians. Around 389,000 individuals have been displaced by the conflict, with most taking shelter in public evacuation centers.

Three petitions were filed questioning the factual bases for the declaration; the first on June 5 by a group of minority congressmen led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman. Petitioners Eufemia Cullamat, et al., and Norkaya Mohamad, et al. filed their petitions on June 9.

Those who voted to junk the consolidated petitions are Associate Justice Mariano Del Castillo, who penned the decision; 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.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, and Associate Justices Antonio Carpio and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa are of the view that martial rule is only warranted in Marawi and nearby localities, and has not spilled over to the rest of Mindanao.

Associate Justice Marvic Leonen flat-out believes there is no factual basis for the president to place Marawi and the rest of the region under martial rule.

PETITIONERS VS. OSG

The Lagman petition alleged that the attack on Marawi is “actually an armed resistance” and not a rebellion because it was a mere attempt to prevent government from arresting Abu Sayyaf Group-Basilan leader Isnilon Hapilon, who has allied with the Maute group and two other local terror groups: Ansarul Khilafah Philippines, formerly known as the Maguid group from Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat, led by Mohammad Jaafar Maguid; and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters based in the Liguasan Marsh, Maguindanao.

The Cullamat petition, meanwhile, argued “[t]he imposition of Proclamation No. 216 in the entire Mindanao is unwarranted, unjustifiable, and wholly out of proportion to the threat posed by the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups because aside from the violence in Marawi, [government] failed to prove sufficient factual basis that rebellion or, at the very least, incidents similar to that in Marawi are simultaneously occurring in the rest of the 27 cities and 422 municipalities of Mindanao, to justify its imposition in the entire island.”

The petition of Norkaya Mohamad et al., all residents of Marawi, said “martial law must be an instrument of last resort,” a power that must be used only when all other options are exhausted.

In defending Proclamation No. 216, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) said the Constitution is clear in according the president the sole prerogative to resort to the awesome commander-in-chief powers of declaring martial rule and suspending the privilege of the writ.

Solicitor General Jose Calida said only the President possesses sensitive information vital in coming up with the decision, as he argued that the attack on Marawi "is not an isolated incident but part of a bigger plot to establish an Islamic state in Mindanao in accordance with the call of ISIS" or put simply, a rebellion to secede the southern region from the Republic.

Hapilon was chosen as ISIS "emir" in the Philippines, Calida said.

Calida also said the President and Congress have already acted together to rally behind the executive issuance, and "due deference should be given to the resulting action, which carry the weight and approval of two branches of government, the members of which had been duly-elected by the Filipino people.”

"The declaration of martial law and its affirmation of Congress carry with them the imprimatur of the Filipino people,” Calida told the high court during the case’s oral arguments.

The camp of at least one petitioner plans to seek reconsideration.

Atty. Cristina Yambot, lawyer of Cullamat said the decision "would be a bad precedent."

"Such low standard could be used in imposing martial law in other areas of the Philippines," Yambot said. "The situation did not escalate outside Marawi City. Mindanao is such a large area that the ordinary powers of the President could address such kinds of situations."

Calida, however, said the Supreme Court's decision proves the existence of real and present rebellion in Mindanao. 
 
"As the conscience of our nation, the Supreme Court did not idly to watch our country get dismembered. In fact, this decision shows that the Honorable Supreme Court is one with the President in protecting and defending our country's sovereignty," he said.

The high court's decision is a landmark ruling on the merits of a martial law proclamation under the 1987 Constitution, which provides safeguards against abuses experienced during the marcos dictatorship. - with ANC