MANILA — Solicitor General Jose C. Calida, the government’s top lawyer, on Monday said that he is ready to defend Proclamation No. 216 and he is confident that the government will win.
Calida made the statement in response to the filing of opposition lawmakers led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman of a petition before the Supreme Court to challenge the constitutionality of President Rodrigo Duterte’s proclamation of martial law in Mindanao.
“Who are these rabble-rousers to say that there is no factual basis for the declaration of martial law?” Calida said in a statement.
“Their denial that there is an ongoing rebellion by the combined forces of the Maute group and the Abu Sayyaf, heightened by the participation of foreign jihadists to make Mindanao a caliphate of ISIS, is like saying that the sun does not rise from the east. This is a symptom of psychosis since they are detached from reality,” he noted.
President Rodrigo Roa 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.
“Nowhere in the Constitution does it state that the President’s declaration of martial law needs the recommendation or concurrence of the Defense Secretary, or any cabinet official,” Calida said, refuting the petitioners’ argument that Duterte acted alone in declaring martial law without the benefit of a recommendation from his cabinet.
For his part, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II reiterated that once affirmed by the House of the Representatives and Senate the validity of the President’s declaration of martial law the Supreme Court cannot be overruled.
Aguirre said that once Congress declares the imposition of martial law for 60 days in Mindanao is valid, the SC “is almost powerless” to override the Congress and the President.
”Waste basket lang yun , kung bakit nagdesisyon na separately ang House at tsaka ang Senate that they are backing the declaration of martial law as sufficient in compliance sa law at tsaka sa facts. Ngayon pag ganun na wala na magagawa ang Supreme Court when it is very clear na arbitrary ang pag deklara ng Presidente ng martial law. Walang mangyayari dyan,” Aguirre told reporters covering DOJ in a phone interview.
Earlier, Aguirre cited the detailed report that the President submitted to Congress justifying the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
While he acknowledged the provision in Article VII, Section 18 of the Constitution that gives the SC 30 days within which to decide on a petition questioning the factual basis for martial declaration, Aguirre said the Court would still have to defer to the position of the President and Congress.
“I believe that in view of the declaration of the President and the concurrence of Congress the only way that the SC could oppose this is when it shows that the act, that the President acted arbitrarily, which is very difficult to prove,” he noted.
In his report, Aguirre pointed out that the joint attack by the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups in Marawi City was a “prelude to eventually take over the entire island.”
Considering the network and alliance-building activities among terrorist groups, local criminals, and lawless armed men, the siege of Marawi City is a vital cog in attaining their long-standing goal: absolute control over the entirety of Mindanao,” the report read.
“These circumstances demand swift and decisive action to ensure the safety and security of the Filipino people and preserve out national integrity,” it added.
Meanwhile, the petitioners assailed 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 Supreme Court to review the “sufficiency of the factual basis” of such declaration or suspension.
The petitioners also claimed that the imposition of martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus is flawed because of the absence of recommendation or consultation from ranking defense and military authorities.
The absence of recommendation and consultation was admitted and confirmed by Defense Secretary Delifin Lorenzana when he briefed members of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
With overwhelming “ayes”, The House of Representatives last Wednesday adopted a resolution expressing its “full support” to President Duterte in his declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
According to House Resolution No. 1050, the Committee of the Whole had found “no reason to revoke” Duterte’s Proclamation 216 entitled “Declaring a state of martial law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao”.
The lower chamber constituted itself as a Committee of the Whole to tackle the President’s report on the martial law declaration.
The committee received a briefing by the different department heads of the executive branch including Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, and other Cabinet officials.
”During the said briefing and after interpellation, the Members of the House of Representatives determined the sufficiency of the factual basis for the issuance of Proclamation No. 216,” the resolution read.