Bersamin defends SC affirmation of martial law extension amid criticism

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 21 2019 03:53 PM | Updated as of Feb 21 2019 04:12 PM

MANILA- Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin on Thursday defended the Supreme Court's majority decision to uphold the third extension of martial law in Mindanao, which has drawn criticism.

Bersamin, who visited the Sandiganbayan on the invitation of Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, told reporters that the majority decided to side with the President and Congress as there was enough basis to extend martial rule in Mindanao.

“Well, the majority believe that the President and the Congress were able to establish sufficient factual basis for extending the proclamation of martial law. And there were other issues that were subordinate to this main issue,” Bersamin said.

Voting 9-4, the Supreme Court had on Tuesday upheld Congress' grant of President Rodrigo Duterte's request to extend martial law in Mindanao until the end of the year. 

Bersamin was among magistrates who voted to dismiss the petition questioning the extension, along with Associate Justices Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Rosmari Carandang, Mariano del Castillo, Alexander Gesmundo, Andres Reyes Jr., Jose Reyes Jr., Ramon Paul Hernando and Diosdado Peralta,

The four dissenters, meanwhile, were Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Marvic Leonen, Francis Jardeleza, and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa.

Critics had called the third extension of martial law in Mindanao unnecessary as the siege on Marawi City, which had triggered Duterte's initial declaration when firefights began on May 23, 2017, was long over. 

Asked about inconsistencies in military intelligence as pointed out by Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa during oral arguments on the matter, the Chief Justice stressed that the decision still rests on the President.

“But when you note some inconsistencies or weaknesses, that is not sufficient to undo the determination of the President because accuracy is not the question here. The question here is what is the information that the President acted upon,” Bersamin said.

The Chief Justice also noted that Duterte made a judgment call that should be respected.

“The President is the commander-in-chief and it’s only natural to give him that power. Whatever the facts he receives which is not available to the ordinary citizens like us, we should respect his determination of that,” Bersamin said.

A copy of the full decision has yet to be released. 

“Let’s just wait for the final written opinions,” Bersamin said.