Supreme Court compels DND to submit confidential 2018 martial law report

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) directed the Department of National Defense (DND) to submit to them the “highly sensitive and confidential” 2018 martial law report.

“The Court hereby directs the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to submit no later than 12:00 noon on Friday, January 25, 2019, the Department of National Defense's Monthly/Periodic Reports addressed to the Congress on the implementation of Martial Law from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018 which involve highly sensitive and confidential matters affecting the security of the State,” the en banc said in a resolution issued on January 22.

This is related to the consolidated petitions filed by opposition lawmakers and human rights lawyers against the 3rd extension of martial law, which, if cleared, would stretch the proclamation to two years and 7 months.

Only the justices will have access to the report for now, after which they will make a “preliminary assessment” whether the report can be tackled in the oral arguments on January 29, or if it “may only be appropriately discussed and deliberated upon in an executive session." (READ: No actual rebellion, no data to back martial law extension – lawmakers)

Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman, whose group filed the first petition, claimed that they did not have access to a detailed report on martial law, and that President Rodrigo Dutere’s letter to Congress only had “generalized terms."

The confidential reports would aid the Supreme Court in determining whether there is factual basis to declare martial law over Mindanao. There is factual basis if there is an actual “case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it,” at least according to Section 18 of the Constitution.

Similar case in 2017

In 2017, during the first deliberations on martial law in Mindanao, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and then-military-chief General Eduardo Año were summoned to the Court where they also presented “secret documents” to the justices.

The briefing was done closed-door, and the SC majority ended up affirming the constitutionality of Duterte’s proclamation.

The Supreme Court had approved President Rodrigo Duterte’s martial law thrice, decisions which collectively gave the President almost absolute discretion to proclaim military rule. (Read about the 3 decisions here: 1st decision, 2nd decision, 3rd decision)

In the same resolution, the Supreme Court allowed Lagman to do the oral argument for his group’s petition.

On Wednesday, January 23, a 4th petition was filed by Lumad teachers of alternative schools in Mindanao. Through longtime human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, the teachers asked that their petition be consolidated with the earlier 3 petitions to the Supreme Court so that they too could join the January 29 oral arguments. –

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 or tweet @lianbuan.