MANILA—President Rodrigo Duterte’s chief legal counsel on Thursday said the public have nothing to worry over the proclamation of martial law in Mindanao as the Constitution provides sufficient protection against any abuses.
“The public should not be alarmed by the President’s proclamation because the Constitution itself provides ample safeguards to ensure the responsible implementation of martial law,” Presidential Chief Legal Adviser Salvador Panelo said in a statement sent to media.
First, he pointed out that the proclamation of martial law is limited to a period of 60 days.
Panelo said that in case rebellion or invasion persists and public safety requires it, any extension would be subject to the approval of Congress, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its members.
Second, Congress and the Supreme Court has the power to revoke the proclamation of martial law.
As provided in the Constitution, Duterte is required to submit a report to Congress within 48 hours from the proclamation of martial law.
Congress, voting jointly, can revoke the proclamation by a vote of at least a majority of its members.
“The President cannot set aside the revocation,” Panelo pointed out.
Likewise, any citizen may require the Supreme Court to review the declaration of martial law in an appropriate proceeding.
The SC is required to decide upon the matter in 30 days.
“To be clear, it is provided in the Constitution that a state of martial law does not suspend the operation of the Constitution, nor supplant the functioning of the civil courts or legislative assemblies. The Constitution also does not authorize the conferment of jurisdiction on military courts and agencies over civilians where civil courts are able to function,” the President’s legal counsel said.
“Given the safeguards provided by the Constitution, and the President’s pure intention to do everything within his power to maintain peace and order and ensure the safety of the public, there should be no reason for the public to be anxious about the proclamation of martial law,” Panelo said.
In the meantime, Panelo maintained that President Duterte is justified in proclaiming martial law in Mindanao under the present circumstances.
Duterte placed Mindanao under martial law on Wednesday following violent clashes between government troops and members of the terrorist Maute Group.
“In light of the continuing violence and criminality in Mindanao, culminating with the recent violent incursions of the Maute Group in Marawi City, the President is constrained to proclaim martial law in Mindanao in order to protect and preserve the safety of the people,” Panelo said.
He stressed that it cannot be denied that the actions of the Maute Group, in coordination — and in conspiracy with the other terrorist groups — constitute the crime of rebellion as defined in the Revised Penal Code.
The terrorist group launched armed assaults in Marawi City, clashing with the military and the police and setting various establishments, such as the St. Mary’s Church, the Ninoy Aquino School, and the Dansalan College, on fire.
The Maute Group has also launched previous attacks in Davao City and Butig, Lanao del Sur.
“The raising by the Maute Group of the flag of the ISIS, in which it proudly claims to be a part of, in the occupied government land, buildings and properties, and proclaiming the same as part of its territory, removed from the Government their allegiance, thereby depriving our President of his powers and prerogatives to maintain peace and order, and to serve and protect the people,” Panelo said.
He said that based on the savagery and brutality of the Maute Group, public safety demands the timely and effective response of Government in order to protect and preserve the lives of the thousands of individuals in Mindanao, especially the innocent civilians.
“All told, the present situation justifies the President’s exercise of his constitutionally-granted power of proclaiming martial law,” Panelo said.