THE declaration of martial law by President Rodrigo Duterte in Mindanao will not be the same as that of the Marcos regime, because of safeguards placed in the 1987 Constitution to prevent abuses and protect civil liberties, lawmakers said on Wednesday.
Section 18, Article VII of the Constitution states that the President “in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law.”
Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd said the President has 48 hours to submit a report to Congress justifying the declaration of martial law in Mindanao following a series of attacks by the Maute terrorist group in Marawi City.
After that, the Senate and the House have 24 hours to convene a joint session of Congress to revoke or extend the martial law declaration by a majority vote.
Sen. Francis Escudero pointed out that the declaration of martial law may be revoked by Congress with a simple majority vote, if the legislature finds no basis for it.
“The leaders of both houses will decide to meet and convene only to revoke. But if Congress finds no reason to revoke and if there is no motion calling for revocation and if there will be consensus not to revoke, then there is no need to discuss it,” Escudero explained.
Congress also has the choice to shorten the martial law period and limit the scope of the declaration to certain areas instead of the entire Mindanao.
On Wednesday evening, House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said Congress would no longer convene as it won’t revoke the martial law declaration anyway.
“Congress does not have to concur with the Proclamation, but either House [of Congress]may express support if it so desires,” Fariñas said in a statement.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson admitted the Senate would be irrelevant in the voting of the joint session of Congress, because the House has bigger numbers than the 22-member Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd said Congress cannot do anything until lawmakers receive the President’s report. Once the report is received, Congress can hold a session to discuss the report between today and next week, he said.
In an advisory, the Department of Foreign Affairs said that “in order to suppress lawless violence and rebellion and for public safety, it is necessary to declare Martial Law in the entire island of Mindanao including Sulu, Jolo and Tawi-Tawi for a maximum of 60 days.”
Political analyst Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, said martial law was justified given the taking up of arms against the civilian population of Marawi City.
“If you would just use as basis the Marawi incident it may not be enough reason however, we are aware of the nature of the enemy and its ability to carry out attacks in other areas, like the bombing in Davao City that was traced to the Maute group…so that (declaration) was prudence,” Casiple said in an interview.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, in an interview, said martial law does not suspend the Constitution nor substitute the civil courts with military courts.
“The civil courts will continue to function; the bill of rights will continue to be enforced; there’s no warrantless arrest with the declaration of martial law,” he explained.
Escudero reminded the Defense department that the declaration of martial law does not automatically suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, and such suspension must be done separately.
The writ is an order from the courts for authorities to produce arrested individuals and justify their detention.
Escudero made the clarification in response to the statement of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana that the declaration “entails the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, imposition of curfews and setting up of checkpoints.”
Escudero said: “The defense secretary may have been mistaken about the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus because it is not automatic by expressed provision of the Constitution and should also be specifically declared by the President.”
Sen. Francis Pangilinan likewise clarified that the suspension of the privilege of the writ “shall apply only to persons judicially charged for rebellion or offenses inherent in or directly connected with the invasion…During the suspension of the privilege of the writ, any person thus arrested or detained shall be judicially charged within three days, otherwise he shall be released.”
But Salvador Panelo, chief presidential legal counsel, told reporters a martial law declaration calls for warrantless arrests, otherwise authorities won’t be able to seize suspects swiftly.
Lawmakers however will have the final say.