Lawyers group file 2nd petition vs martial law in SC

By on June 6, 2017


Former senator Rene Saguisa. (Photo: PULA/Facebook, CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 PH)
FILE: Former senator Rene Saguisag. (Photo: PULA/Facebook, CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 PH)

MANILA — A group of lawyers on Tuesday filed a mandamus petition before the Supreme Court asking to order the Senate and the House of Representatives to convene in joint session and vote jointly on President Rodrigo Duterte’s Proclamation 216 declaring martial law and suspending the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao.

This was the second petition filed before the high court to challenge the constitutionality of the President’s proclamation of martial law in Mindanao.

The petitioners led by former senator Rene Saguisag former party-list lawmaker Loretta Ann Rosales, detained Senator Leila De Lima, former PhilHealth Director Alexander Padilla and law professor Rene Gorospe seeks issuance of a mandamus that would compel Senate and the House of Representatives to convene jointly to review the declaration.

The petition also included a list of over 300 lawyers led by former solicitor general Florin Hilbay who signified their support to the petition.

“These acts cannot be considered compliance with the clear constitutional requirement for Congress to convene and vote jointly. They are ineffectual in relation to the Congress’ obligation to jointly convene and vote conssitent with its obligation under Article VII Section 18 [of the Constitution],” the petition for mandamus stated.

Petitioners said that the President’s power to declare martial law and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus are powers that could have severe consequences including potential suppression of the basic civil rights.

They explained that Congress, voting jointly to determine whether the proclamation of martial law and or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is valid or not is considered the “first line of defense” against possible repeat of the martial rule of former President Ferdinand Marcos.

“Legislative review of the exercise of the martial law powers is therefore meant to provide democratic check or sanction to the exercise of such powers. This democratic checking or validating powers is for the protection of the people whose rights are placed at risk by the use of such powers,” petitioners said.

Petitioners believed that the constitutional provision on martial law imposes on Congress a “mandatory obligation” to convene in joint session.

“Whether the result of such convening is a vote to revoke or support the exercise of martial law powers, the Constitution does not qualify. What the Constitution requires is not so much for Congress to exercise its discretionary veto powers but for Congress to perform, in joint session, its constitutional obligation to review the act of the President,” they pointed out.

They explained that the language of the law was clear in making the congressional review on martial law as a “first line of defense” against a possible repeat of the martial rule of former President Ferdinand Marcos.

“Legislative review of the exercise of the martial law powers is therefore meant to provide democratic check or sanction to the exercise of such powers. This democratic checking or validating powers is for the protection of the people whose rights are placed at risk by the use of such powers,” petitioners said.

Petitioners also rejected the reported explanation by House leaders that Congress is only required to convene jointly when it wants to revoke the proclamation.

They said that in all cases, legislative review of the exercise of martial law powers is meant “to provide democratic check or sanction to the exercise of such powers.”

The petition named Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez as respondents.

The lawyers for the petitioners are Hilbay; Teddy Esteban Rigoroso; Jose Manuel Diokno of the Free Legal Assistance Group; Arno Sanidad; and, former partylist congressman Ibarra Gutierrez.

On Monday, opposition lawmakers led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman filed a petition sought to strike down Proclamation No. 216, entitled “Declaring a state of martial law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao”, as bereft of sufficient factual basis and called for its nullification.

Joining Lagman in the petition, which was docketed as G.R. No. 231658, are Akbayan Rep. Tomasito Villarin, Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, Capiz Rep. Emmanuel Billones, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat, Jr. and Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice.

Under Article VII, Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution, the President may declare martial law and suspend the writ of habeas corpus only “in case of invasion or rebellion, when public safety requires it”.

The same section also grants special jurisdiction to the SC to review the “sufficiency of the factual basis” of such declaration or suspension.

President Duterte issued Proclamation No. 216, on May 23, 2017 declaring a state of martial law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao. This was a result of the attack of the Maute group in Marawi City, which is still ongoing and is subject to military operations.

Two days later, the President submitted to both the House of Representatives and the Senate the report in relation to the declaration of martial law.

On May 31, the House of Representatives approved House Resolution 1050 while the Senate adopted Resolution 388 both expressing support to the declaration of martial law.