SC's low standards may be precedent to nationwide martial law – petitioner

MANILA, Philippines – Will it now be easier to declare martial law in the entire Philippines?

Cristina Yambot of the National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL) on Tuesday, July 4, said the majority decision of the Supreme Court (SC) upholding martial law in Mindanao may just have set the grounds for martial law nationwide.

"Napakababa ng standards na in-allow ng Supreme Court para sa Presidente para sa pagdedeklara ng martial law, precedent ito sa pagdeklara ng martial law sa buong Pilipinas," Yambot said. (The SC allowed for very low standards for the President to declare martial law, and it's a precedent to declare martial law in the entire Philippines.)

The SC, in an en banc session Tuesday, voted 11-3-1 to uphold the constitutionality of President Rodrigo Duterte's martial law in Mindanao.

It's a historic ruling because this is the first time that the SC is coming out with a legal guideline on martial law ever since the amendment of the Constitution in 1987.

The High Court failed to do so in 2012 when it junked petitions against former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's martial law in Maguindanao because it was already moot. Arroyo lifted martial law 8 days after proclamation and petitions were filed before the SC only years after.

On Tuesday, 11 justices voted in favor of martial law, 3 justices partially granted the petitions – meaning they found merit in some of the arguments – and one was totally against martial law.

If it were based on the prayers of their petitions, Yambot said the 3 "partially grant" votes seek to limit the coverage of martial law only to certain areas in Mindanao.

"We are surmising that it says there that martial law is valid but only in these areas, not in the entire Mindanao," Yambot said.

Bad omen

Yambot added: "Sinasabi na nga natin na rebellion does not exist in Marawi, more so in the entire Mindanao pero dahil kinatigan ng Korte Suprema, masamang pangitain ito para sa buong Pilipinas."

(We are saying that rebellion does not exist in Marawi, more so in the entire Mindanao, but because the SC upheld the declaration of martial law, this could be a bad omen for the Philippines.)

Yambot said they intend to exhaust all legal remedies to try and stop martial law in Mindanao even if it expires on July 22, following the 60-day prescribed period in the Constitution.

"A lot can still happen in those days, right now we are already hearing rights abuses and complaints from the Marawi area," Yambot said.

Marlon Manuel of the Marawi group of petitioners told Rappler he will still have to read the substantive parts of the decision.

"In either situation, as we have stated during the oral arguments, this case is a test not only for the President's action, but also for the SC, and the review mechanism set up in the Constitution for martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus," Manuel told Rappler in a text message.

SC Spokesman Theodore Te said the concurring and dissenting opinions are set to be finalized Wednesday, July 5.

Te did not yet release details of the vote breakdown.

The SC has also yet to rule on the other petition asking the High Court to compel Congress to convene on martial law. –

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.