Government lawyers on Monday asked the Supreme Court (SC) to dismiss petitions that pray for the junking of President Rodrigo Duterte’s martial law declaration in Mindanao.
In a 45-page comment filed before the SC, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) pleaded that the three consolidated petitions questioning the legality of Proclamation 216 be thrown out for lack of merit.
Solicitor General Jose Calida pointed out that the declaration of martial law was done within the powers of President Duterte.
He rejected the petitioners arguing that lack of recommendation from ranking defense and military authorities for the imposition of military rule had negated Proclamation 216 from the beginning.
The petitioners cited a reported admission by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana before members of the Senate and the House of Representatives that an attack on Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, on May 23 did not call for martial law.
“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 216; neither does it impact on the sufficiency of the factual basis for its proclamation,” it was pointed out.
The OSG chief said the petitioners failed to justify the need for intervention of the High Court in the declaration.
He added that the three consolidated petitions by opposition lawmakers led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, local Mindanao leaders led by lumad (indigenous people) leader Eufemia Campos Cullamat and a group of women from Marawi led by Norkaya Mohamad failed to prove grave abuse of discretion on the part of the President in issuing Proclamation 216.
“Quite the contrary, the proclamation is amply supported by facts that a rebellion does exist, and the public safety requires it,” Calida said.
Furthermore, he added, Proclamation 216 must be accorded the presumption of constitutionality as it is within the powers of the President under Section 18 of Article VII of the Constitution on the basis of factual reports from the Armed Forces as well as intelligence information submitted to him.
“There is nothing arbitrary in this reliance, as the President–given his vast responsibilities as head of state, chief representative in foreign affairs and commander-in- chief of the Philippine armed forces–could not be reasonably expected to personally determine the veracity of all these reports,” the OSG stated.
Calida said there is also no truth to the contention of petitioners that there was no factual basis to justify the proclamation of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.
According to him, a clear threat to public safety in Mindanao posed by the Islamic State-linked Maute Group that swooped down on Marawi last month became the sole basis of declaring martial law.
“The facts relied on by President Duterte for the issuance of Proclamation 216 sufficiently establish the existence of a rebellion in Mindanao. IS–inspired local rebel groups have taken up arms against the Philippine government for the purpose of removing Mindanao from its allegiance, and of depriving the Chief Executive of his prerogatives therein,” the OSG said.
The SC en banc will hold three-day oral arguments on the declaration of martial law Tuesday to Thursday.
In a message on Independence Day, June 12, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno expressed sadness for those who have fought and continued to work for the country’s freedom, including government troops who perished in fighting the terrorist Maute Group in Marawi City.
“Our country remembers today all those who have fought for and continue to fight for our country’s freedom and sovereignty. We celebrate the valor of our fallen heroes, present and past, all of [whom]sacrificed lives and wealth, safety and comfort,” she said.
The DNA of the nation’s forefathers, who had fought hard to claim the Philippines’ independence from Spain on June 12, 1898, “lives on today in all those who continue to give all they have to ensure that our nation remains free.”
“The judiciary pays homage to all Filipino heroes; draws inspiration from them; reflects with sorrow on the fallen soldiers in Marawi; and renews its commitment to the people to defend their freedoms,” Sereno added.