Aguirre: Martial law can result in constitutional crisis
MANILA, Philippines – Jusice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said that martial law can result in a constitutional crisis if the legislative and judicial branches have different findings.
"Supposing at this time, Congress affirmed it and assuming that the Supreme Court (SC) resolves a petition and said there's no need, that martial law is inappropriate, then what happens? Here comes Congress, they support, and here comes the SC saying that is not in accordance with the Constitution. That's the constitutional crisis," Aguirre said in a one-on-one interview with Rappler on Thursday, June 1.
The justice chief had made the same statement in February, or 3 months before the declaration of martial law, when he addressed lawyers attending the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) anniversary.
"That view of mine has not changed," Aguirre said on Thursday, as he renewed calls for Congress to convene in a joint session. (WATCH: Rappler Talk: Aguire on pork scam, martial law, and war on drugs)
Lawyer and political analyst Tony La Viña said Congress and the High Court, being two co-equal branches of government, can always have contradicting opinions.
"The contradictory positions do not mean a crisis, because that's the nature; it means they're doing their jobs," La Viña told Rappler in a telephone interview.
He added what may lead to such a crisis is if Congress does not convene in a joint session, because the constitutional safeguards of martial law are not being followed. (READ: Nene Pimentel contradicts son Koko: Congress required to hold joint session)
"The crisis happens when the executive says it will ignore the SC," La Viña said.
Who shall prevail?
Under Section 18, Article VII of the Constitution, Congress shall convene and "may revoke such proclamation or suspension, which revocation shall not be set aside by the President."
But it also says that the SC, upon the filing of a petition, may review martial law and issue a decision within 30 days.
Aguirre said he believed that in the event of a clash between Congress and the SC, Congress would prevail.
"That's my position. Once Congress supports martial law, SC has very little power within which to overrule it. It's very clear that the SC could not overrule the decision of Congress," Aguirre said. (READ: Aguirre to martial law critics: Go to Supreme Court)
Lawyer Oscar Franklin Tan said that the High Court will always have the final say as the "final arbiter of the Constitution." But, Tan said, "one must remember that the SC's power is much more limited."
"The Constitution allows the SC to review martial law for lack of factual basis only. The SC cannot revoke martial law if it thinks it is unwise or unnecessary, which Congress can do. The SC's allowed grounds for revoking are far more limited," Tan said.
La Viña explains it this way: Co-equal branches of government cannot tell each other what to do. The High Court can declare that something is unconstitutional, but when the other branches "insist on doing something that's unconstitutional," that's when the problem begins. (READ: Duterte cannot ignore SC, Congress on martial law – senators)
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said he will ignore the SC on martial law but his spokesmen were quick to clarify that his statements were only meant to emphasize his trust in the military and police.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Duterte’s ally and PDP-Laban party mate, said the statement was alarming but they need not act on it.
"To avoid a constitutional crisis, when a case is filed before the SC, then we should explain to SC that the declaration has factual basis through the Solicitor General," Aguirre said. (READ: Why Mindanao lawyers have qualms about martial law)
He added: "Ang kuwestiyon natin, hindi ba puwede namang kahit walang martial law puwedeng i-quell ang rebellion? Puwede but it doesn't necessarily mean martial law should not be proclaimed. Without martial law puwede nating gapiin 'yang mga yan; we could defeat them, but with great loss of lives and property. Kinakailangan lang martial law would lessen the resistance."
(The question is – could we quell rebellion without martial law? We can but it doesn't necessarily mean martial law should not be proclaimed. Without martial law we could defeat them, but with great loss of lives and property. We need the martial law to lessen the resistance.) – Rappler.com