MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Anyone opposing President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao can go to the Supreme Court (SC) and challenge it there, said Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Thursday, May 25.
“The proclamation is in accordance with the Constitution and necessary to avoid the dismemberment of our nation. The President is entitled to be presumed to be regularly performing the duties of his office,” Aguirre said in a text message to reporters.
“Of course, those who oppose the decision can go to the SC. We are in a democracy, we are free to express our own opinions, and we will respect their views,” he added.
Section 18, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution states that upon the filing of a petition by any citizen, the SC may review “the sufficiency of the factual basis” of the declaration of martial law or suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. The SC must issue a decision within 30 days. (READ: Martial Law 101: Things you should know)
Though Filipinos have the option to turn to the SC, Aguirre still urged martial law critics to just trust that the President knows what he is doing.
“It’s better that they see the wisdom of the declaration of martial law and support the President,” Aguirre said.
In a press conference Friday afternoon, May 26, in Davao City where Duterte held a Cabinet meeting the night before, Solicitor General Jose Calida said they are “confident that we would be able to prove there was substantial factual basis.”
“The festering rebellion of the Maute terrorist group which has pledged allegiance to the virulent ISIS, otherwise known as Daesh in Arabic, is a compelling reason why martial law was declared,” Calida said.
Lawyer and political analyst Tony La Viña said that “from a legal point of view,” the High Court would have the final say on martial law if a petition is filed. (READ: Questions you need to ask about martial law in Mindanao)
Congress, meanwhile, has the power to revoke the declaration through joint voting by the Senate and the House of Representatives, but it is “unlikely” that they would do so. Senators are just seeking a Palace briefing on the matter.
The 1987 Constitution says the imposition of martial law should not exceed 60 days, and any extension has to be approved by Congress.
According to Aguirre, there are certain information that Duterte is privy to which the public are unaware of, and which the President also used as basis for his proclamation of martial law.