Opposition solons ask SC to reverse ruling upholding martial law

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 21) — Opposition lawmakers have requested the Supreme Court to reverse its July 4 ruling upholding the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

"It is respectfully prayed that: The Majority Decision (ponencia) dated 04 July 2017 which declared Proclamation No. 216 constitutional be reversed, and Proclamation No. 216 be declared unconstitutional," the petitioners led by Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman said in the motion for reconsideration dated July 20.

Other petitioners include Representatives Tomas Villarin, Gary Alejano, Emmanuel Billones and Teddy Baguilat, Jr.

Proclamation No. 216 declaring martial law in Mindanao and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus was issued on May 23 by President Rodrigo Duterte when the ISIS-linked Maute group stormed Marawi City, capital of the province of  Lanao del Sur.

The 54-page motion for reconsideration explained how the high court failed to review the sufficiency of facts given to justify the declaration of military rule.

"The excuse that the Supreme Court does not have the 'competence' and 'logistical machinery,' compared to the President, to 'ably and properly assess the ground conditions' alleged by the president in his proclamation and report, is an ominous prelude to an abandonment of its power of judicial review under Section 18 of Article VII of the Constitution," the motion read.

The high court's decision is therefore "flawed and tainted," it added.

It accused the Supreme Court of favoring Duterte, "granting excessive leeway to the President's exercise of emergency powers."

The Supreme Court on July 4 dismissed petitions questioning the legality of Duterte's proclamation of martial law in Mindanao by a majority vote of 11 out of 15 justices. Three justices, including Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, voted to partially grant martial law in some areas, while only Associate Justice Marvic Leonen voted to entirely revoke martial law.


Related: Supreme Court upholds martial law in Mindanao

Lagman and the opposition lawmakers maintained in their motion for reconsideration that there is no rebellion in Marawi City or in the entire island of Mindanao, as Duterte cited in his proclamation and report to the Congress.

"Acts of terrorism are not necessarily equivalent to actual rebellion and the consequent requirement of securing public safety to justify the assailed declaration and suspension," the petitioners said.

The Constitution allows the President to declare martial law or suspend the privilege of the writ of the habeas corpus, allowing warrantless arrests, "in case of invasion or rebellion (or) when the public safety requires it" for a period of 60 days.

But Solicitor General Jose Calida, who defended Duterte's martial law proclamation in three oral arguments held last June, said the Marawi crisis is part of a bigger plot to establish an Islamic state in Mindanao. He said there was a rebellion in Marawi, with the aim of "taking over the Philippine territory."

Calida on Friday said the opposition's motion does not stand a chance.

"I see the Motion for Reconsideration on the Martial Law Decision having two chances: NIL and NONE," he said in a tweet.


Lagman, counsel for the petitioners, added that the declaration of martial law is to blame for the "tragic aftermath" in Marawi.

"The improvident and unconstitutional imposition gave the military and police forces the go-signal to inordinately intensify their air strikes and land assaults which resulted to the wanton devastation of Marawi City and a looming humanitarian crisis," Lagman said.

Twelve soldiers were killed in two separate incidents of botched government airstrikes in July 12 and May 31 this year. Despite the loss of lives and the destruction in Marawi, the military said airstrikes must continue to target and destroy the terrorists.