THE Supreme Court is the last venue for legal appeals, but in its ruling expected to favor President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao, the high tribunal is expected to make its own kind of appeal – for peace in the restive region.
According to unimpeachable sources of The Manila Times in the court, the 83-page draft ruling of Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo will call on both the government and its rebel opponents, as well as all Muslims, to work for unity.
“Can’t we sheathe our sword and pause for a while to bury our dead, including our differences?” a source said, quoting the draft decision.
The source said the del Castillo draft, which was expected to affirm the declaration of martial law in the entire Mindanao and dismiss all three petitions against it, was attracting more votes from the magistrates.
“In conclusion, the Court finds that sufficient factual basis exists for President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s
Proclamation No. 216. He acted within the bounds set in the Constitution; no grave abuse of discretion, therefore, is attributable to him,” the draft reads, as read by the Times source.
The court en banc is set to vote today, Tuesday, on petitions questioning the legality of Proclamation 216 or “Declaring a state of martial law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao.”
As of press time, almost all of the justices have submitted their separate concurring and dissenting opinions.
The source said that so far, only Associate Justice Marvic Leonen has called for the granting of the petitions and the junking of martial law.
Draft separate opinions by Sereno and Associate Justices Antonio Carpio and Benjamin Caguioa, classified as concurring and dissenting opinions, make reservations as to the territorial coverage of martial law, which would limit the proclamation to certain areas.
Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes is expected to cast his last vote during his last en banc session, before he retires on Thursday.
Times sources forecast at least 10 justices to agree to martial law covering the entire Mindanao, or agree “in the result” of the del Castillo position.
There were discussions between the magistrates if the standards of test as regards offenses committed under martial law should be between “probable cause” or “sui generis” (on a class of its own).
The source noted that while judicial powers allow the review of the sufficiency of the factual basis of the declaration of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, such review does not extend to the calibration of the Chief Executive’s decision in a given situation.
Also, the court has no machinery to receive information from the war zone and the target areas or terrorists, and only the Commander in Chief, who receives vital intelligence and classified information, can decide on the territorial application of martial law, the source noted.
One of the petitions against martial law was filed by lawmakers from the opposition led by Edcel Lagman, Tomasito Villarin, Gary Alejano, Emmanuel Billones and Teodoro Brawner Baguilat, Jr.
These lawmakers said that contrary to the claim of Malacañang, there was no invasion or rebellion endangering public safety that could justify President Duterte’s Proclamation 216.
Another petition was filed by activists and militant lawmakers under ACT Teachers’ party-list, Gabriela Women’s party-list, and Kabataan party-list; and four female Marawi City residents, led by Norway Mohamad.
Security officials to issue recommendation
The government is confident the Supreme Court will rule in favor of the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
During the “Mindanao Hour” news briefing on Monday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana insisted there was sufficient basis for the martial law proclamation.
“I, for one, am very confident that the Supreme Court will rule on the legality of martial law. I was there, I and [Armed Forces chief] Gen. [Eduardo] Año briefed them, the Supreme Court en banc. [They were looking at] the factual basis, [if there really was a basis]and I believe we have sufficiently or competently answered all the questions on the basis of martial law,” Lorenzana told reporters.
He said security officials were set to give their recommendation to Duterte on whether to lift martial law or extend it beyond the 60-day limit under the Constitution.
“We’ll wait for a couple of weeks more so that we will see the real picture. We don’t have yet the necessary information to recommend the continuation or not of martial law,” he said.
In declaring martial law over Mindanao, Duterte had said in his report to Congress that the terrorist Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups sought to carve out an Islamic State wilayat (province) in the region, and that “there exists no doubt that lawless armed groups are attempting to deprive the President of his power, authority, and prerogatives.”
The Defense chief refused to give another timeline on the end to the Marawi clashes, saying it would be of no use given how past deadlines were not met.
“The people on the ground, they do not want to give timeline now. But they’re trying hard to finish it as soon as possible. [Me, I got burned three times]. I gave deadlines three times, [but each time they were not met, so I don’t want to set any more deadlines],” Lorenzana said.
Last week, however, Duterte said in a speech that he expected the fighting to be over in about a month or less.
Giving deadlines has consequences on ground operations, the Cabinet official said.
“Really, if you put a timeline on this kind of problem, all the enemy has to do is hold out for a couple of days and your timeline is destroyed,” Lorenzana said.
WITH CATHERINE S. VALENTE