Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said on Tuesday that it is possible that the Supreme Court (SC) may review the basis of the martial law proclamation in Mindanao despite the fact that the it already has the support of Congress.
“The action of Congress will not preclude the SC from exercising its jurisdiction to review the factual basis of martial law declaration,” Lagman replied.
Lagman also stated that if the proclamation has already been revoked by the Congress then there’s nothing more for the SC to review.
The counsel of Marawi City women, Marlon Manuel, shared the same ideas with Lagman, also questioned the factual basis of martial law.
Associate Justice Marvic Leonen asked lawyer Marlon Manuel regarding the difference of how the SC ruling on the legality of the martial declaration and Congress’ affirmation of the president’s proclamation and why would SC revoke a decision that done by a body composed of elected officials.
“There is supposed to be some kind of balance between what the Congress can do and what the Supreme Court will do,” the Associate Justice told Manuel.
“Why would this court of un-elected representatives overturn a body of hundreds representing different parts of the entire Republic in their decision not to revoke the declaration of martial law?” Leonen said and also pointed out that Mindanao lawmakers weren’t among of petitioners against martial law.
To answer the Associate Justice’s question, Manuel explained that the Constitution still has the final decision although it allowed SC and Congress evaluate the legality of martial law in Mindanao.
“In the discussion in the deliberations with the Constitutional Commission, the same question was posed by one of the commissioners,” Manuel said.
“The categorical answer of Fr. Bernas was [that] the Supreme Court’s decision shall prevail,” said Manuel, in reference to discussions of the framers of the 1987 Constitution.
All petitioners’ lawyers stated that the violence done by the Maute may constitute to terrorism but not rebellion nor invasion which the Constitution allows for martial law to be declared and suspension of writ of habeas corbus.
“Acts of terrorism are not necessarily equivalent to actual rebellion and the consequent requirement of securing public safety,” Lagman argued and added that DOJ Sec. Vitaliano Aguirre II admitted this. Lagman emphasized that President Rodrigo Duterte “must be factually correct” and “may not be arbitrary or capricious in appreciation of the facts.”
“Rebellion has a culpable purpose: removing the Philippines or a part thereof from allegiance to the Republic or preventing the President or the Legislature from exercising their powers and prerogatives,” Albay rep said. “This culpable purpose is utterly absent in the alleged ‘rebellion’ in Marawi City and elsewhere in Mindanao,” he added.
Lagman described the President Duterte’s Duterte’s “factual assertions” to justify martial law “turned out to be inaccurate or hyberbolic.”
“It stands to reason that when the President exercises a very serious, extraordinary power, he must be supported by the necessary coordination, recommendation, and consultation from the ranking officials of the defense and military sectors,” Lagman stated.
“In the exercise of this extreme, special emergency power, the president should not act in solitude because it would affect the multitude,” he added.
However, Justice Mariano del Castillo didn’t seem to be convinced with Lagman’s reasonings.
“The military casualty count as of last Sunday is already 58 soldiers, Congressman,” del Castillo told Lagman. “Dead soldiers of ours. And there are 25,000 evacuees now in Iligan City. So for you the situation is still not that serious for Martial Law to … I mean, Martial Law will only be with us for 60 days, assuming that he [President Duterte] won’t lift the proclamation earlier. With all the safeguards, I don’t know why you are so worried.”
Lagman replied, “Your honor, all of these subsequent killings, including civilians and children, we commiserate with the government with respect to the deaths of many soldiers. But these are all circumstances after the fact of the declaration of Martial Law. They are the aftermath of an ill-conceived declaration, your honor. So this will not in any way validate the continuance of Martial Law. And we personally believe that the Armed Forces of the Philippines has the capability to suppress this terrorism in Marawi City without the President imposing Martial Law.”
The Congress had already ruled out having a joint session for the ongoing fights against the ISIS-linked Maute group in Marawi and Congress will only summon in joint session if there’s a plan to revoke or extend the 60-day long martial proclamation.