SC junks 2 petitions urging Congress to convene for Mindanao martial law review

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 25 2017 04:06 PM

MANILA- The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday dismissed two petitions urging the high court to order Congress to convene in a joint session to review President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao because of the conflict in Marawi City. 

High Court magistrates voted to unanimously junk the petitions of former Sen. Wigberto Tañada, et al. and detained Sen. Leila De Lima, et al., with 13 saying Congress did not commit grave abuse of discretion in opting not to hold a joint session, and 2 saying the petitions should be dismissed for being moot and academic after Congress granted Duterte's request to extend his 60-day martial law proclamation up to Dec. 31.

The ruling came out three days since Duterte's initial May 23 declaration lapsed. 

Tañada, along with Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Iniguez, Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Bishop Antonio Tobias, Adelaida Ygrubay, Shamah Bulangis, and Cassandra Deluria had argued that a joint session to review the declaration was “mandatory” under the 1987 Constitution. 

“[T]he physical convening of a joint session contemplates a physical convening… jurisprudence holds that the power to declare martial law or suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, while vested in the President, is shared with Congress; in order for Congress to exercise its power, it necessarily must convene jointly,” the petition read, as it stressed that the legislative review is a “safeguard” against executive overreach.

Petitioners said failure to hold a joint session “deprives lawmakers of a deliberative and interrogatory process to review martial law” and deprives the public of transparent proceedings necessary for a clear understanding of the factual bases of the declaration. 

The petition filed by De Lima, former Senator Rene Saguisag, former Commission on Human Rights chairperson Etta Rosales, former Commission on Elections Chairman and constitutionalist Christian Monsod, lawyer Alexander Padilla, and Rene Ballesteros pointed out that “[w]hat the Constitution requires is not so much for Congress to exercise its discretionary veto powers but for Congress to perform, in joint session, its constitutional obligation to review the act of the President.”

“Petitioners seek nothing more than compliance with a minimum procedural fidelity to the mechanisms enshrined in the Constitution meant to prevent abuse of power and to ensure popular mandate in the exercise of the presidential martial law powers,” De Lima’s group said. 

Duterte issued Proclamation No. 216 on May 23 as the Islamic State-linked Maute group launched attacks in Marawi City. In his report to Congress, the President said the attacks constitute rebellion and are an attempt to remove allegiance to the Philippine government and deprive him of his powers and prerogatives to enforce laws and maintain public order and safety in Mindanao. 

The High Court affirmed the declaration on July 4, with an overwhelming majority of 11 magistrates ruling there was sufficient factual basis for it. 

The battle for control of the city entered its 63rd day on Tuesday, with some 300 hostages still being held by the terror group in a small area in the city. Over 100 had been killed on the government side, and over 400 on the part of the terrorists. 

At least 400,000 individuals from Marawi City and nearby areas have been displaced.