SC upholds yearlong extension of martial law in Mindanao

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
SC upholds yearlong extension of martial law in Mindanao

In this June 2, 2017 photo, President Rodrigo Duterte visits the 102nd Infantry Brigade Headquarters in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay. PCOO/Released

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 3 p.m.) — The Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of President Rodrigo Duterte's year-long martial law extension over Mindanao.

Voting 10-5, the SC junked petitions challenging the extension of Proclamation No. 216 that placed Mindanao under martial law and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the region.

Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te, in a briefing on Tuesday, said: "The Court finds sufficient factual basis for the issuance of resolutions of both houses and finds it constitutional."

Associate Justice Noel Tijam, appointed to the Supreme Court in 2017, penned the decision.

Concurring are Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita De Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Mariano Del Castillo, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Samuel Martires, Andres Reyes Jr. and Alexander Gesmundo. 

Justices Velasco, Del Castillo, Bernabe and Martires wrote a separate concurring opinion on the case.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Associate Justices Francis Jardeleza, Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa and Marvic Leonen dissented from the majority and voted to nullify Duterte's martial law extension.

Only Sereno did not file a separate dissenting opinion on the case.

Congress holds authority

Te said that the Court held that:"The manner of Congress' deliberation with respect to the President's request for extension of martial law in Mindanao for one year is not subject to judicial review."

The SC also said that the two Houses of the Congress has the "full discretionary authority" to promulgate its own rules, and the said power is exempt from judicial review and interference, "except on a clear showing of such arbitrary and improvident use of the power such as would constitute a denial of due process."

The high court also noted that there is no provision under the Constitution that prescribes how many times the proclamation of martial law may be extended or how long the extended period may be.

Rep. Edcel Lagman (Albay), one of the petitioners, raised this issue during the oral arguments. "How can a mere extension be inordinately longer than the original proclamation sought to be extended?" he said in a petition filed in December.

But the Court held that: "If the Constitutional Commission had intended to limit any extension to 60 days, it would have been expressly stated and would not have been left to Congress."

READ: Lagman told: Convince me rebellion in Mindanao has ended

Proclamation has factual basis

The Court also held that the extension had sufficient factual basis, as "the rebellion that spawned the Marawi incident persists."

It said "public safety requires the extension, as shown by facts presented by the [Armed Forces of the Philippines]."

Duterte first declared martial law in Mindanao in May 23, 2017 after the ISIS-inspired Maute group laid siege to Marawi City. Five months later, Duterte, in a rousing speech to his troops, announced the liberation of Marawi City.

But Maj. Gen. Fernando Trinidad, AFP deputy chief of staff for intelligence, told the court during oral arguments that communist rebels continue their logistical buildup and extortionary activities, which he said hinder government development efforts.

Trinidad also said that there are about 400 terrorists in Mindanao, around the same number that mounted the Marawi siege in May 2017. The government had initially estimated the number of terrorists in Marawi at 50-100 during the early days of the siege.

The Court also left defining the "necessity to the public safety"—one of the requirements prescribed by the Constitution—to the discretion of Congress.

"When the President and Congress ascertain whether public safety requires the declaration and extension of martial law, they do so by calibrating not only the present state of public safety but the further repercussions of the actual rebellion to public safety in the future as well," the SC added.

The SC has yet to release a copy of the full decision.

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