Senators react to SC decision upholding martial law

MANILA — Senators on Tuesday had mixed reactions to the Supreme Court (SC) decision to uphold Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

Senate Pres. Aquilino Pimentel III and Senators Eduardo Angara, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Sherwin Gatchalian, Richard Gordon, Gringo Honasan, Panfilo Lacson and Juan Miguel Zubiri supported this decision in separate statements sent to media.

However, senators Joel Villanueva and Hontiveros wanted answers to some of their questions.

Pimentel said that he had “no doubts” that Pres. Duterte declared martial law with factual basis.

Angara, who was in Mindanao for the past week, expressed support for the decision and reiterated that the 1987 Constitution has enough safeguards to protect the people from possible abuses of martial law.

“We support the ruling of the Supreme Court being the final arbiter on the matter,” Angara said. “We have high hopes that this war will soon come to an end.”

He also urged the government to “fast-track” efforts to bring Marawi back to its feet.

Ejercito, who claimed to have supported the declaration of martial law since day one, said that the real intent of the declaration is to crush terrorism and rebellion, and nothing else.

“…The intention of martial law is to contain the area of conflict and to put an end to the rebellion by the terrorist Maute group and had no threat to basic freedom and Constitution is functioning,” Ejercito said.

He said now that the two branches of government have already affirmed Pres. Duterte’s actions, “all questions on its legality has been put to rest.”

Ejercito, meanwhile, said that if there is a need to extend the implementation of martial law, the Senate would have to call for a joint session.

‘Democracy at work’

Lacson said the fact that the declaration had “factual basis” was “clear enough that there could not have been any other ruling” as overwhelming decisive.

He further said that he knew that the Senators who voted for martial law did right in supporting the martial law proclamation in Mindanao when it was debated in caucus and in plenary.

The senator, meanwhile, expressed hope that none of his colleagues would call the magistrates “lapdogs and cowards of the administration.”

Lacson was referring to Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV who earlier called the Senate “lapdogs” of the administration because they were afraid of Pres. Duterte.

Sen. Gringo Honasan, for his part, described the SC decision as “Philippine pluralistic democracy at work.”

“Whatever the issue, Congress legislates, the Executive implements and the Judiciary rules on questions of law and fact,” Honasan said.

Honasan pointed out that flaws in politics and democracy in its worst forms are much better than no rules which is anarchy noting that “everything else is procedural.”

Gordon, meanwhile, urged Pres. Duterte to take the decision of the SC as a signal to “fix the situation” not only in Marawi but the entire Mindanao.

“Now that the President has the support of the court and congress, he should use that support not to be over confident but certainly because we believe that there is situation occurring in the country that must be solved,” Gordon said.

Gatchalian described the SC ruling as a “free hand” for the President to use all necessary means to crush the Maute terrorists.

“It is time to set aside politics and work together in reclaiming Marawi and bringing the city back to its glory,” Gatchalian said.

Progressive Supreme Court

Zubiri said that he was “relieved” that the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the President’s declaration.

He described it as a chance for the government’s security forces to continue clearing operations against these Maute terrorists “without a cloud of doubt on their mandate to do so.”

“The Supreme Court magistrates showed judicial probity, independence and progressive thinking in their exercise of judicial review powers,” Zubiri said.

He said that the ruling was “a mark of a progressive Supreme Court” when they listen to the Executive’s justifications of the martial law declaration.

Unanswered questions

Villanueva did not disagree with the SC’s decision but noted that it must be recalled that the declaration previously had issues regarding its scope.

“…We have to note that there were issues before regarding scope, on whether it should just be Marawi or that region or the whole Mindanao, with regard to extending martial law,” Villanueva said.

He also said that there are still many questions that needed to be answered before any plans to extend martial law beyond 60 days is made.

“We have to ask what it has accomplished relative to the problem of terrorism in Mindanao, what was its impact, was it effective or not and why it is necessary moving forward and what are the other options if not martial law,” Villanueva said.

Hontiveros, however, described the SC ruling as a “missed opportunity” to stand up against creeping authoritarianism

Hontiveros said that Pres. Duterte must not see the decision as a “free pass” to expand martial law to other parts of the country.

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