3 groups take on gov't in SC oral arguments on martial law

MANILA, Philippines – When the Supreme Court (SC) begins oral arguments on June 13, the government will have to face 3 groups of petitioners seeking to nullify and review the basis of martial law declared over Mindanao.

The SC en banc, in two separate orders issued on Saturday, June 10, consolidated the two additional petitions with the earlier petition of opposition lawmakers and set them all for oral arguments beginning Tuesday.

Adding to the earlier petition filed by opposition House lawmakers led by Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman are petitions from the groups of militant lawmakers and community leaders and women from Marawi. 

Both petitions were filed on Friday, June 9, with the Marawi group just able to beat closing time at 5 pm. Both petitioner groups prayed that they be allowed to join the oral arguments next week.

The en banc, on a Saturday, ruled that both petitions are sufficient in form and substance and scheduled them for oral arguments with Lagman's petition.

Proceedings will be quick, as the government's lawyer, Solicitor General Jose Calida, is required to file his consolidated comment before 12 noon on Monday, June 12. Preliminary conference will begin that Monday too, starting 2 pm.

The next day, Tuesday, oral arguments start which will run until Thursday. Under the Constitution, when the SC admits a petition on martial law, it shall issue a ruling within 30 days.

'Unsubstantiated, unjustified' 

The petition filed on Friday by the group of ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio, Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas, and Kabataan Representative Sarah Jane Elago also seeks the nullification of martial law.

They said that the proclamation was "unwarranted, unjustifiable and wholly out of proportion to the threats posed by the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups."

Tinio et al's petition also slams the fact that the proclamation not only named Maute and Abu Sayyaf but also "other rebel groups." Petitioners said the insertion of the phrase was "dangerously vague and unsubstantiated."

Tinio's group said that what happened in Marawi has not reached the point that public safety requires the declaration of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

"In fact, the reverse is true – human rights, civil liberties and public safety are threatened by the imposition of martial law..." the petition of Tinio's group said.

The Tinio petition added that the declaration of martial law in Mindanao endangers the peace processes of the government with both the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and communist groups. 

"Imposing martial law and curtailing civil and political rights of the people in Mindanao is a 'cure' that is worse than the alleged disease," the petition said.

Tinio, Brosas, and Elago's co-petitioners are: 

Marawi group

Another petition was filed by Marawi residents led by Mindanao State University (MSU) Professor Norkaya Mohammad, which seeks a review of the basis of the declaration.

Mohammad's co-petitioners are fellow residents from Marawi City – Nur Dyhanna Mohamad, Noraisah Sani, and Zahria Muti-Mapandi. Mohammad earlier called for the immediate termination of airstrikes in Marawi. She is one of the thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the Marawi crisis.

Mohammad's group is represented by consititutionalist Christian Monsod, himself a petitioner in the petition for mandamus filed by the group of detained Senator Leila de Lima seeking to compel Congress to convene on martial law.

The other lawyers of Mohammad's group include Marlon Manuel of the Alternative Law Groups and Mindanao-based lawyer Normita Batula of the Balay Alternative Legal Advocates for Development in Mindanaw or Balaod Mindanaw.

Meanwhile, petitions asking the SC to compel Congress to convene on martial law were filed by detained Senator Leila de Lima and a group of high-profile lawyers, and by former senator Wigberto Tañada and several Catholic bishops.

Under the 1987 Constitution, the president can declare martial law for up to 60 days, with any extension requiring approval by Congress in a joint session.

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


Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.