Opposition solons urge SC to reverse martial law ruling

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 21 2017 04:16 PM

MANILA- A day before the lapse of President Rodrigo Duterte's 60-day martial law declaration in Mindanao, opposition lawmakers who had lost their plea to invalidate the proclamation urged the Supreme Court to reverse its decision.

Led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, the group filed a motion for reconsideration (MR) Friday, saying the decision "delimited and emasculated the [SC's] jurisdiction to review the sufficiency of factual basis [of Proclamation No. 216]" when the court stated that its constitutional mandate to review martial rule does not include determining the correctness and veracity of the president's factual allegations and justifications.

Eleven of the high court's 15 magistrates earlier this month affirmed the legality of President Rodrigo Duterte's Proclamation No. 216, which placed the entire Mindanao under military rule following clashes between government troops and Islamic State-inspired Maute and Abu Sayyaf group extremists in the Islamic city of Marawi.

Since then, more than 500 have been killed in the continuing firefights, and close to 400,000 have been displaced from the conflict zone and nearby areas. 

Petitioners argued that the High Court accorded the President "much leeway and flexibility" in the imposition of martial law and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus "to the extent of denigrating its power of judicial review" as provided for in Article VII, Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution.

"Instead of having a critical approach to the exercise of its power of judicial review, the Supreme Court has adopted an unduly deferential posture vis-à-vis the President," the reconsideration plea read. 

It said such apparent deference "defeats the very purpose and essence of the court's jurisdiction to review the sufficiency of factual basis of such declaration or suspension."

Petitioners further explained there seemed to be an "ominous prelude" to the high court's abandonment of its power of judicial review when its decision stated that it does not have the "competence" and "logistical machinery" compared to the President in evaluating the incidents and facts presented to support the executive issuance.

"When the framers of the 1987 Constitution included among the safeguards the grant of jurisdiction to the Supreme Court to review the sufficiency of the factual basis of the President's declaration of martial of law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, they were fully aware of the President's logistical superiority to secure and be the repository of intelligence information," the petition read.

"It is precisely because of this presidential superiority, which could be prone to abuse, that the framers accorded to the Supreme Court the original, exclusive and additional power to determine the adequacy of the factual anchorage of the president's declaration or suspension, and after finding that the factual basis is wanting, then to nullify or void the president's declaration of martial law and suspension of the writ," the MR stated.

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), which represented the government before the high court, earlier expressed confidence that there would be no reversal of the ruling. 

"With the supermajority votes of the justices declaring Proclamation No. 216 as constitutional, meaning, there is sufficient factual basis for the imposition of martial law in Mindanao, my fearless forecast is that the petitioners have two chances: nil and none," Solicitor General Jose Calida said last week. 

DUTERTE ASKS FOR MARTIAL LAW EXTENSION

Congress is set to meet in joint session on Saturday to vote on Duterte's request for an extension of martial law in Mindanao up to Dec. 31.

In an 8-page transmittal to Congress, the President explained that "the existing rebellion in Mindanao, which has prompted me to issue Proclamation No. 216… will not be quelled completely by 22 July 2017, the last day of the 60-day period."

"Despite the progress and significant strides that we have achieved against the [Da'watul Islamiyah Waliyatul Masriq] and its sympathizers, however, the rebellion persists and a lot more remains to be done to completely quell the same and bring back public order and safety in Mindanao," Duterte had told Congress.

Duterte further said the leadership of terror groups who waged attacks in Marawi City and other parts of Mindanao "largely remains intact despite the considerable decline in the number of rebels fighting in the main battle area."

Under the Constitution, only Congress may extend martial law and/or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus upon the President's request. While the Constitution specifically states the President may avail of these extraordinary powers for a period of 60 days, it is silent on the period allowed in the event of an extension.