The Supreme Court (SC) is poised to dismiss all petitions questioning the validity of the declaration of martial law in Mindanao as majority of the magistrates believe that Proclamation 216 is constitutional, sources said.
Unimpeachable sources of The Manila Times inside the high court said an overwhelming majority of the justices are set to affirm the legality of Proclamation 216 issued by President Rodrigo Duterte on May 23, 2017. The proclamation also suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao.
Members of the high court will cast their votes during an en banc session on July 4, Tuesday.
Court insiders who asked not to be identified said Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo had circulated a well-crafted draft decision that cleared Duterte from charges that he abused his discretion when he signed the proclamation.
One source said that in his 83-page draft decision, Del Castillo said the court “finds sufficient factual basis” for the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
Several justices have manifested their agreement with Del Castillo’s draft ponencia, while others have submitted their separate concurring and dissenting opinions, among them Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Justices Antonio Carpio, Diosdado Peralta, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Bienvenido Reyes and Marvic Leonen.
The source said that 10 to 14 justices are likely to vote to declare martial law legal and constitutional. The only issue of contention is on territorial coverage because some of the magistrates believe that martial rule should be limited in several areas.
So far, only one magistrate had issued a dissenting opinion to the draft decision of Del Castillo.
One of those who want martial law confined to Lanao del Sur and some areas near Marawi City, which was attacked by the Maute Group.
In his draft decision, Del Castillo said the 1987 Constitution has enough safeguards to protect the people from possible martial law abuses.
It added that while the high court has the judicial power to review the sufficiency of the factual basis for the declaration of martial law or the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, such power does not extend to the calibration of the President’s decision in a given situation.
Thus, the draft decision declared that the high tribunal cannot encroach on the powers of the executive and the legislative whether to revoke or extend the proclamation of martial law.
Some lawmakers led by Rep. Edcel Lagman, Tomasito Villarin, Gary Alejano, Emmanuel Billones and Teddy Brawner Baguilat, Jr. have questioned the martial law declaration, claiming that there was no invasion or rebellion endangering public safety to justify Proclamation 216.
But Del Castillo said the unverified news articles submitted by the petitioners do not constitute as evidence. In his draft decision, the magistrate said only the President has the vital intelligence and classified information that cloaks him with the power to decide whether to impose martial rule or not.
Another consolidated petition filed by activists and lawmakers representing ACT party-list, Gabriela Women’s party-list and Kabataan party-list, and four female Marawi City residents is pending at the SC.
The two petitions asking the court to compel the House of Representatives and Senate to hold a joint session and scrutinized martial law will not be included in Tuesday’s voting since the issues are different.
The petitions were filed by former Senator Rene Saguisag, former Commission on Elections chairman Christian Monsod, former Commission on Human Rights chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales, former Philippine Health Insurance Corp. president Alexander Padilla, lawyer Rene Gorospe and Sen. Leila de Lima.
Duterte has threatened to jail critics of martial law.
The President had said that he would ignore the findings of the court, which has constitutional oversight, vowing only to listen to recommendations from the armed forces.
“It’s not dependent on the whim of the Supreme Court. Should I believe them? When I see the situation is still chaotic and you ask me to lift it? I will arrest you and put you behind bars,” Duterte said in a speech before local officials on Saturday.
“We can talk of anything else and make compromises maybe but not when the interest of my country is at stake,” he added.
Government forces continue to battle Maute group terrorists in Marawi. Aerial bombardment and ferocious street-to-street combat has left some 400 people dead and forced nearly 400,000 people to flee their homes.