MANILA - An opposition lawmaker on Tuesday cited President Rodrigo Duterte's inaccuracies in justifying his declaration of martial law in Mindanao, as he argued against the move before the Supreme Court.
"There was a litany of facts that turned out to be inaccurate," petitioner and Albay Representative Edcel Lagman said when Justice Mariano del Castillo asked why he was disputing the president's judgment.
"You were not there (in Marawi), how can you dispute?" Del Castillo asked on the first day of oral arguments on cases questioning the president's declaration of martial rule in Mindanao.
Lagman said the petitioners "need not be in Marawi City before, during, and after the declaration," as facts were based on the executive branch's assessment, review, and report submitted to congress.
"The president said in his proclamation that the Amai Pakpak Medical Center in Marawi has been overrun by the Maute group and employees and personnel have been held hostage. But no less than the director of the hospital said the hospital was not overran and that no personnel have been held hostage," Lagman said under the questioning of del Castillo.
The Albay representative also reminded the justices that President Rodrigo Duterte's statement that terrorists beheaded Marawi's chief of police also turned out to be a false claim.
"He (Duterte) said a certain police inspector [was] captured and beheaded. Several days later, the police official surfaced and was alive," Lagman said.
The petitioner told the magistrates that defense and military officials should first "decipher, synthesize and validate data" before the president makes such pronouncements.
But Del Castillo told Lagman that the president and ranking military officials were entitled to keep "some information only privy to members of the executive."
Lagman then argued that while some security-related information may be classified, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had "repeatedly said that there is no need to enforce martial law" to suppress terrorist activities in Mindanao.
Lorenzana later clarified his statement and said the president's declaration was an "imperative."
"It (terrorism) is a concern but it is not indicative of rebellion. It has been done by these people a long time ago... It is cheap propaganda, which they have been using for a long time already," Lagman said.
Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23 after clashes erupted between government troops and the Islamic State-linked Maute and Abu Sayyaf terror groups in Marawi City. Gunfights continue to this day.
In explaining his declaration, Duterte had told Congress in his report that the militants were aiming to establish an Islamic State province in Mindanao.
Opposition lawmakers and other groups questioned the necessity of the president's proclamation before the Supreme Court after Duterte's allies in the legislature opted not to convene both chambers of Congress to review Proclamation No. 216, his 60-day martial law declaration.
Duterte had himself said he would follow the Supreme Court's final ruling on the cases.