MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) set the dates for oral arguments on the petition against martial law in Mindanao, which will be on June 13, 14, and 15.
SC spokesman Theodore Te said on Tuesday, June 6, that the High Court also ordered Solicitor General Jose Calida to file his comment on or before June 12. A preliminary conference for both parties is also scheduled on that day.
Calida will represent the respondents in this case – Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Eduardo Año. Lorenzana and Año are martial law administrator and implementor, respectively.
The SC will also suspend en banc and division-level sessions next week to hear the petition, a source said. The Constitution has a 30-day deadline for the SC to decide on the legality of a martial law declaration from the day a petition against it is filed.
This means that the SC will have to decide by July 5.
Opposition lawmakers led by Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman filed on Monday, June 5, a petition seeking to nullify President Rodrigo Duterte’s May 23 declaration of martial law in Mindanao because it is “bereft of sufficient factual basis.”
The petitioners belonging to the 7-member House opposition bloc are the following:
- Gary Alejano, Magdalo
- Teddy Baguilat Jr, Ifugao lone district
- Emmanuel Billones, Capiz 1st District
- Edcel Lagman, Albay 1st District
- Tom Villarin, Akbayan
Northern Samar 1st District Representative Raul Daza was unable to sign the petition as he was already in his district when the document was finished. Congress is currently on break.
One basis cited by the petitioners is that Duterte’s Proclamation Number 216 erred when it said the Amai Pakpak Medical Center (APMC) was overrun by the Maute Group.
Lagman said this was already refuted by APMC medical director Amer Saber and other medical employees.
Lagman also cited other refuted claims such as the supposed ransacking of the branch of the Land Bank of the Philippines in Marawi City, and the supposed burning of the Senator Ninoy Aquino College Foundation by local terrorists.
The petition also cited the earlier claim that Senior Inspector Romeo Enriquez, Malabang police chief, was beheaded. It turned out Enriquez is alive.
Lagman also said that while Lorenzana had said that the Marawi City Hall was occupied, this was later denied by the military.
“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 vote. The SC may also review a martial law declaration following an “appropriate proceeding filed by any citizen.” – with reports from Mara Cepeda / Rappler.com