SC upholds martial law declaration in Mindanao

Rosette Adel - Philstar.com
SC upholds martial law declaration in Mindanao

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, right, addresses troops during his visit to the 2nd Mechanized Brigade Friday, May 26, 2017 on the outskirts of Iligan city in southern Philippines. Duterte told the troops fighting Muslim militants for the control of southern Marawi city to use martial law powers to defeat the Islamic State group-linked extremists. At left is Armed Forces chief and martial law administrator Gen. Eduardo Ano and at center is Defense Chief Delfin Lorenzana. AP/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 1:56 pm) — The Supreme Court en banc on Tuesday ruled that President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao is legal.

After its deliberations on validity, the SC voted 11-3-1 to uphold the constitutionality of Proclamation 216 or martial law in Mindanao.

Eleven justices voted in favor of this ruling while three partially voted to grant the petition and one dissented. SC Public Information Office chief Theodore Te refused to detail how the individual SC magistrates voted on the petitions against martial law.

"The court dismissed the petitions by a vote of 11 of its members, three members voted to partially grant the petitions and one member voted to grant the petitions," said Te during the press briefing.
"All 15 justices have submitted their respective opinions, whether concurring or dissenting. All opinions will be submitted by tomorrow," he added.
The petitioners needed eight votes to nullify the proclamation.
Solicitor General Jose Calida, who argued for the declaration of martial law, said the Supreme Court's decision "underscores the presence of a real and present rebellion that threatens the lives of our Filipinos in Mindanao, and their much-cherished liberties."
Calida claimed that the decision "shows that the Honorable Supreme Court is one with the president in protecting and defending our country's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
"With the Supreme Court decision, the whole government now stands together as one," Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said.
Both chambers of Congress have already opted to pass resolutions of support for martial law instead of convening in a joint session to discuss the declaration.
"We ask the public to give their full support and cooperation to local authorities. After all, securing communities is a responsibility that must be shared by everyone," Abella also said.

Duterte declared martial law in the whole of Mindanao to neutralize the local terror group Maute and contain violence in the region following a clash between the government forces and the terror goup in Marawi City on May 23. He also suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao.

The move has popular support and was welcomed by business leaders in the region, saying martial law would create a more favorable environment for investors.

Opposition lawmakers however asked that the proclamation be nullified, citing Section 18, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution, which gives authority to the president to declare martial law "in case of invasion or rebellion, when public safety requires it."

Aside from House minority leaders, residents of Mindanao and women of Marawi also sought the high court’s decision to invalidate the martial law declaration. Some lawyers urged SC to order the Congress to convene on its proclamation.

The respondents of the petitions were Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Gen. Eduardo Año, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Lorenzana is martial law administrator while Año is implementor.

SC subsequently held three days of oral arguments from June 13 to 15 to discuss the merits of the petitions and of martial law itself. 

The petitioners can still file a motion for reconsideration before the SC.

Ahead of the SC ruling, several martial law critics gathered along Padre Faura Street in front of the SC to protest the president’s declaration. According to Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Secretary General Renato Reyes, allowing the declaration of martial law in Mindanao will pave the way for a martial law declaration in the whole country. 

The president has said in past speeches that he may suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the Visayas if violence in Marawi spills over into the island group. Navy and coast guard patrols have been dispatched to the waters between Mindanao and the Visayas.

He has also said that martial law will be declared across the country if Islamic State-inspired terrorists gain a foothold in Luzon. — with a report from Alexis Romero

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