In this file photo, President Rodrigo Duterte, center, clad in a camouflage uniform prepares to board a helicopter from an undisclosed place to visit troops in Marawi City.
Presidential Photographers Division/Ace Morandante, File
SC orders gov't, military: Submit 2018 reports on martial law
Kristine Joy Patag ( - January 23, 2019 - 5:55pm

MANILA, Philippines — Days ahead of the oral arguments on martial law's third extension in Mindanao, the Supreme Court ordered the government to submit the Department of the National Defense’s reports on the region in 2018.

On Wednesday, the SC en banc directed the Office of the Solicitor General to submit on Friday noon the Department of National Defense’s monthly or periodic reports last year on the implementation of martial law which were addressed to the Congress.

The high court said the justices would make a preliminary assessment on whether the reports, which contain confidential matters of the State, should only be discussed in an executive session.

READ: Calida insists rebellion exists in Mindanao

Third request for extension

This is the third time the SC is asked to determine the constitutionality and factual basis of President Rodrigo Duterte’s martial law declaration.

In 2017, the high court has upheld Proclamation No. 516 to place Mindanao under martial law for 60 days. It also upheld Duterte’s year-long extension of military rule in the Philippines' southernmost island.

In the two times the SC ruled on petitions related to martial law, it conducted oral arguments.

It may be recalled that during the oral arguments on the consolidated petitions seeking the nullification of Proclamation No. 216, the SC held an executive session with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Eduardo Año, then-Armed Forces chief and currently Department of the Interior and Local Government secretary.

The two were the administrator and implementor of martial law, respectively.

Solicitor General Jose Calida then asked for a closed-door session, pointing to the sensitive details on matters that involve national security.

Petitioners: Duterte’s letter to Congress lacking

There are four petitions lodged before the SC challenging Duterte’s martial law extension for 2019.

Two came from lawmakers at the House of the Representatives, one from the members of the “Magnificent 7” and one from the Makabayan bloc.

The Makabayan bloc in their plea recalled that the narration of Duterte, in his letter to the Congress requesting for the extension, “merely illustrates in general terms the continuing rebellion in Mindanao.”

Solons belonging to the progressive bloc said the president promised to submit a more detailed report to support the government's statement that there is continuing rebellion in Mindanao. But when Congress convened for a special joint session, they said “no such detailed report or any other report was given.”

They also argued that the incidents that supposedly show rebellion do not endanger public safety as a ground to impose martial law under the Constitution.

“The letter does not allege that the situation has deteriorated that the civilian government no longer functions effectively requiring the exercise of the powers of martial rule to ensure public safety,” they added.

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