DND, AFP chiefs set to appear for martial law oral arguments in SC

MANILA — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año are set to appear on the third day of oral arguments on the three consolidated petitions challenging the constitutionality of President Rodrigo Duterte’s proclamation of martial law in Mindanao.

This was the announcement of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Wednesday during the second day of the oral argument.

The appearance of Año and Lorenzana as resource person was the request of the Solicitor General Chief Jose Calida to provide facts why it declared and the implementation of Martial Law in Mindanao.

Sereno said she is open for an executive session with the justices together with Calida, Año and Lorenzana should there be a need due to sensitive info.

“In deference to the sensitive info that may be shared by Sec. Lorenzana and Gen. Año, we are open to having an executive session,” she said.

The three consolidated petitions were filed by opposition lawmakers led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, local Mindanao leaders led by Lumad leader Eufemia Campos Cullamat and a group of women from Marawi led by Norkaya Mohamad.

The petitioners claimed that the declaration was baseless as there was no rebellion or invasion committed in the ongoing crisis because it was triggered by a military operation against alleged ISIS Philippines emir Isnilon Hapilon.

Associate Justice Noel Tijam, during the continuation of the oral argument, said there is nothing reprehensible with the power of martial law under the Constitution.

“There is nothing reprehensible with the power of martial law under the Constitution,” he said.

Calida, for his part, hinged his arguments that the crisis in Marawi is not an isolated incident, it is part of a bigger plot to establish an Islamic State and this is not only a display of Maute’s force but a siege of power.

“The rebels seized Marawi not just with the intention of striking fear. They wanted to establish a caliphate and dismember Malawi,” he pointed out, presenting to the justices an ISIS flag recovered by the military from the rebels.

During interpellation, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio asked the Solicitor General why the declaration covered the entire Mindanao when there was no rebellion in other provinces.

Calida cited “linkages” between Maute and other rebel groups in Mindanao like Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter and Abu Sayyaf.

“The seeds of rebellion were already planted in different parts of Mindanao. Public safety requires the declaration of martial and suspension of privilege of habeas corpus not just in Marawi but in entire Mindanao,” he explained.

Sereno, meanwhile, asked Calida why was there need to declare martial law when the President already has power to call out the military to stop the siege.

Calida explained that the President saw the calling out power as a milder response and wanted a stronger action to stop the rebellion.”The Constitution bestows full authority to declare ML on the President and no one else. The President is only expected to make decisions based on information given to him before decision is made,” he argued.

Calida further argued that elements of rebellion — raising arms against the government and culpable purpose of removing allegiance from the government — were present in the crisis that required the President to use his power of declaring martial law under Section 18, Article VII of the Constitution.

“When he (Duterte) saw gravity of rebellion, he has to act swiftly and decisively to save Marawi… Were it not for the President’s swift action, the rebels would’ve established a stronghold in the heart of Mindanao,” he pointed out.

Calida also downplayed alleged human rights abuses raised by the Integrated Bar of the Philippine Lanao del Sur chapter.

“President Duterte’s order of martial law is markedly different from that issued by (then) President (Ferdinand) Marcos,” he assured.

The OSG chief likewise raised technical issues on the three consolidated petitions seeking to strike down Proclamation No. 216.

He said the petitions have formal defects, citing their failure to specify the remedy being invoked for the SC to review the factual bases of the martial law proclamation.

The solicitor general argued that petitioners cannot just invoke the martial law provisions in the Constitution and should have instead filed petition for review under the Rules of Court.

“The discretion to proclaim martial law can only be questioned if President acted with grave abuse of discretion. The burden on petitioners is to show that declaration is bereft of merit and petitioners miserably fail to overcome this onus,” he alleged.

The oral arguments will continue at 10 a.m. on Thursday with the continuation of interpellation by the justices to OSG.

Two other petitions were filed by separate groups led by former Senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada both seeking issuance of a mandamus that would compel Senate and the House of Representatives to convene jointly to review the declaration. The SC has yet to act on these petitions.

Last Thursday, the SC consolidated the two mandamus petitions asking the high court to order the Senate and the House of Representatives to convene in joint session and vote jointly on President Duterte’s Proclamation 216 declaring martial law and suspending the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte issued Proclamation No. 216, on May 23 declaring a state of martial law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao. This was a result of the attack of the Maute group in Marawi City, which is still ongoing and is subject to military operations. Christopher Lloyd Caliwan/PNA -northboundasia.com