The 82-page decision of the SC was released only at 9 p.m. yesterday. It explained why the tribunal deemed constitutional Proclamation No. 216, which placed the entire Mindanao under martial law and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. File

Rebellion justified martial law – SC
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - July 5, 2017 - 4:00pm

Dissent: No rebellion, just terrorism

MANILA, Philippines - Rebellion staged by terrorist groups affected the entire Mindanao and justified President Duterte’s declaration of martial law, according to the Supreme Court (SC).

The 82-page decision of the SC was released only at 9 p.m. yesterday. It explained why the tribunal deemed constitutional Proclamation No. 216, which placed the entire Mindanao under martial law and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

Declaring martial law is an “executive act” that gave the President the discretion over its scope, the SC ruled.

It noted that bombings in Davao, Cotabato and other parts of Mindanao, terrorism in Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi as well as the siege of Zamboanga City and even the slaughter of 44 police commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao were linked to the Mindanao-wide rebellion.

The ruling approved by 11 of the 15 SC justices rejected the argument of petitioners led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman that there was no rebellion but only acts of terrorism and mere imminent danger, which would not suffice to meet the requirements for declaring martial law under Article VII, Section 18 of the Constitution.

The high tribunal also did not buy the argument of petitioners that the armed conflict with Maute was government-initiated and merely an “armed resistance by the Maute Group to shield terrorist Isnilon Hapilon from capture,” saying such claim was based on unverified news articles.

Instead, the SC agreed with the argument of Solicitor General Jose Calida that the elements of rebellion - raising arms againat the government and culpable purpose of removing allegiance from the government - were present in Mindanao.
Lone dissent

Leonen believed that the government failed to justify the necessity for declaration of martial law and why other powers of the President - including the power to call out the military - would not suffice to address the problem in Mindanao.

He said the respondents represented by Calida “failed to show what additional legal powers will be added by martial law except perhaps to potentially put on the shoulders of the Armed Forces of the Philippines the responsibilities and burdens of the entire civilian government over the entire Mindanao region.”

Leonen said the situation in Mindanao involves only “acts of terrorism which should be addresses in a decisive but more precise manner.”

“Never again should this Court allow itself to step aside when the powerful invoke vogue powers that feed on fear but could potentially undermine our most cherished rights. Never again should we fall victim to a false narrative that a vague declaration of martial law is good for us no matter the circumstances. We have the courage to never again clothe authoritarianism in any disguise with the mantle of constitutionality,” read his 92-page dissenting opinion.

Linkages with Maute

The Court was also convinced that there were linkages between Maute and 20 other rebel groups like Abu Sayyaf and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, which have launched at least 43 attacks not just in Marawi but also in Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga and Davao.

“Considering the widespread atrocities in Mindanao and the linkages established among rebel groups, the armed uprising that was initially staged in Marawi cannot be justified as confined only to Marawi. The Court therefore will mot simply disregard fhe events that happened during the Davao bombing, the Mamasapano massacre, the Zamboanga City siege, and the countless bombings in Cotabato, Sulatb Kudarat, Sulu and Basilan, among others,” read the ruling.

The SC also dismissed the argument of petitioners that the martial law declaration should be voided because President Duterte supposedly did not consult defense and military officials in issuing the proclamation.

It stressed that only the President has the vital intelligence and classified information that cloaks him with the power to decide whether to impose martial rule or not.

“The President’s duty to maintain peace and public safety is not limited only to the place where there is actual rebellion; it extends to other areas where the present hostilities are in damger of spilling over,” the SC explained.

The high court further held that while it is given the authority to review the factual basis of the martial law declaration, it has no power to revoke or extend such proclamation as such authority is exclusive vested by the Constitution to Congress.

The SC also addressed apprehensions on martial law given the country’s experience during the Marcos regime, pointing out that there are enough safeguards provided in the 1987 Constitution to protect the people from possible martial law abuses.

“The importance of martial law in the context of our society should outweigh one’s prejudices and apprehensions against it. The significance of martial law should not be undermined by unjustified fears and past experience,” the Court stressed.

The ruling penned by Associate Justice Mariano Del Castillo was released exactly on the last day of the 30-day deadline for the SC to resolve the petitions filed last June 5.

Ten others justices concurred - Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo - De Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Jose Mendoza, Bienvenido Reyes, Estela Perlas - Bernabe, Francis Jardeleza, Samuel Martires and Noel Tijam - and all submitted their concurring opinions.

Three justices voted to partially grant the petitions - Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa. They believed that while there was factual basis for declaration of martial law, it should be limited in scope and should have not covered entire Mindanao.

In her 51-page dissenting opinion, Sereno said martial law should only cover the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Sulu.

She disagreed with the majority opinion that the discretion on the coverage of the martial law should be left to the President as it is an executive duty.

“Martial law is an extraordinary measure necessitating the exercise of extraordinary power. Nevertheless, the President, in the exercise of his commander-in-chief powers, does not have unbridled discretion as to when, where and how martial law is to be declared,” Sereno explained.

Only Associate Justice Marvic Leonen voted to grant the petitions and declare the proclamation as invalid for lack of factual basis.

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