Opposition lawmakers want SC to nullify martial law

Mara Cepeda
Opposition lawmakers want SC to nullify martial law
6 members of the House opposition bloc believe the President's Proclamation Number 216 declaring martial law in Mindanao is 'bereft of sufficient factual basis'

MANILA, Philippines – Six out of the 7-member House opposition bloc filed a petition before the Supreme Court (SC) on Monday, June 5, questioning the constitutionality of President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

The following members of the House opposition bloc, who dub themselves the “Magnificent 7,” believe Proclamation Number 216 was “bereft of sufficient factual basis” and want the High Court to nullify it:

  • Gary Alejano, Magdalo
  • Teddy Baguilat Jr, Ifugao lone district
  • Emmanuel Billones, Capiz 1st District
  • Edgar Erice, Caloocan City 2nd District
  • Edcel Lagman, Albay 1st District
  • Tom Villarin, Akbayan 

Northern Samar 1st District Representative Raul Daza was not able to sign the petition as he was already in his district when the document was finished. The 17th Congress is currently on a break.

The lawmakers’ SC petition was docketed as GR Number 231658. (READ: House opposition eyes questioning Mindanao martial law before SC)

Duterte had declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23, following clashes between government forces and the Maute terrorist group in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. On June 4, the President expressed confidence that the siege will be over in the next few days.

In a statement, Lagman listed the 6 main highlights of their arguments against the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

  • There is no rebellion or invasion where the public safety requires the declaration of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Marawi City or elsewhere in Mindanao. (READ: Alvarez, Mindanao lawmakers justify martial law declaration)
  • “Mere conclusion of fact and law on the pretended existence of rebellion and/or invasion” is not sufficient.
  • The Marawi siege was government-initiated following the military’s operation to neutralize Isnilon Hapilon, a high-profile terrorist commander.
  • “The proffered rebellion and/or invasion is at most a threat akin to ‘imminent danger’ which has been obliterated from the 1987 Constitution as an alternative ground for the declaration of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.”
  • The “alleged facts” in Proclamation Number 216 is “mostly inaccurate, simulated, false, and/or hyperbolic.”

Opposition refutes claims in Proclamation 216

Lagman, one of Duterte’s staunchest critics in the House, said Proclamation Number 216 erred when it said the Amai Pakpak Medical Center (APMC) was overrun by the Maute Group.

He said APMC medical director Amer Saber and other medical employees already denied Duterte’s claim.

The branch of the Land Bank of the Philippines in Marawi City was also not ransacked by the Maute Group, nor was the Senator Ninoy Aquino College Foundation burned by the terrorists.

Lagman added that Senior Inspector Romeo Enriquez, Malabang police chief, remains alive and was not beheaded by the Maute Group, contrary to what Duterte said in his proclamation. 

The lawmaker also said the military denied the Marawi City Hall was occupied, contradicting an earlier statement by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.  

“The petitioners also claimed that the imposition of martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus is flawed because admittedly President Duterte acted alone, without any recommendation from or consultation with the ranking defense and military authorities, some of whom formed part of his official entourage in Russia,” said Lagman.

“The absence of recommendation and consultation was admitted and confirmed by Secretary Lorenzana when he briefed members of the Senate and the House of Representatives,” he added.

The 1987 Constitution allows the President to declare martial law for 60 days, but any extension requires the approval of Congress in a joint session. The Supreme Court may also review a martial law declaration following an “appropriate proceeding filed by any citizen.”

Both the Senate and the House, mostly composed of Duterte allies, refused to convene in a joint session to discuss the Mindanao martial law. Instead, both houses adopted separate resolutions supporting the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

Read the full text of the SC petition against the Mindanao martial law below:

– Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.