MANILA — The Office of Solicitor General on Monday asked the Supreme Court (SC) to dismiss the three consolidated petitions challenging the constitutionality of President Rodrigo Duterte’s proclamation of martial law in Mindanao.
In a 45-page comment, Solicitor General Jose Calida said that Court should dismiss the petitions for “fatal procedural defects and/or utter lack of merit.”
The OSG was required to file a consolidated comment on the three separate Petitions questioning the factual basis of Proclamation No. 216.
The three consolidated petitions were filed by opposition lawmakers led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, local Mindanao leaders led by Lumad leader Eufemia Campos Cullamat and a group of women from Marawi led by Norkaya Mohamad.
Calida asked the SC to uphold President Rodrigo Duterte’s proclamation of martial law, and help him protect and defend the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“One hundred nineteen years ago, our heroes fought hard for the democracy we enjoy today. In our midst is a real and present danger that threatens our lives and much-cherished liberties. In response to this danger, President Duterte issued Proclamation No. 216,” Calida said.
According to Calida, Proclamation No. 216 enjoys the presumption of constitutionality, and the that petitioners miserably failed to ascribe grave abuse of discretion on the President in its issuance.
“Quite the contrary, the Proclamation is amply supported by facts that a rebellion does exist, and the public safety requires it,” Calida added.
“The filing of this Consolidated Comment defending the constitutionality of Proclamation No. 216 on the anniversary of our independence is perhaps no coincidence. It is a rallying call for every Filipino to unite behind one true flag and defend it against all threats from within and outside our shores,” Calida noted.
The top government counsel branded the attacks in Marawi as ISIS-inspired that warranted the implementation of martial law and suspension of the writ of habeas corpus to ensure public safety.
He also countered the claim of the petitioners that the declaration Prcolamation 216 has no factual basis.
Calida noted that intelligence reports from the Armed Forces of the Philippines served as basis for the proclamation as it laid out the magnitude and scope of the rebellion in the province.
Calida also rebutted the argument of petitioners on lack of recommendation from or consultation with the ranking defense and military authorities as reportedly admitted by Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana when he briefed members of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
“The recommendation of the Secretary of National Defense, or any member of the Executive Department for that matter, is not a condition precedent to the President’s exercise of his power to proclaim martial law or suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. Consequently, the absence of such positive recommendation does not affect the validity of Proclamation No. 216; neither does it impact on the sufficiency of the factual basis for its proclamation,” he argued.
He noted that the Maute rebel group murdered innocent civilians and displaced thousands of families.
“Aside from the effects of the attacks on the civilian population, the strong combat capability, and seemingly limitless firepower and other resources that ISIS-inspired rebels have displayed in their attacks show that the interest of public safety required the issuance of Proclamation No. 216,” Calida added.
Even prior to the siege of Marawi, he noted local rebel groups had already launched a series of attacks in other parts of Mindanao indicating a concerted action and community of interest between and among these rebels.
“The occupation of Marawi through the establishment of roadblocks around the city, and the destruction of schools, hospitals and churches, further require the proclamation of martial law,” he explained.
The suspension of the writ of habeas corpus is also necessary to effect the unimpeded capture of rebels within Marawi and to quickly sever their connection with other terrorist groups outside the city’s borders.
The SC will hear this case in a three-day oral argument starting ton Tuesday until Thursday.
The SC conducted preliminary conference on Monday on the three consolidated petitions and was expected to release the guidelines for the oral arguments.
Two other petitions were filed by separate groups led by former senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada both seeking issuance of a mandamus that would compel Senate and the House of Representatives to convene jointly to review the declaration. The SC has yet to act on these petitions.
Last Thursday, the SC consolidated the two mandamus petitions asking the high court to order the Senate and the House of Representatives to convene in joint session and vote jointly on President Duterte’s Proclamation 216 declaring martial law and suspending the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao.
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte issued Proclamation No. 216, on May 23 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.