Another petition was filed before the Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday pleading to order Congress to convene in joint session to review President Rodrigo Duterte’s Proclamation 216 declaring martial law in southern Mindanao and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.
Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella, however, deemed as “irrelevant” this and two other petitions before the tribunal as both Houses of Congress had voted to support the declaration in the conflict-torn region.
“Perhaps, it is really irrelevant,” Abella told reporters also on Wednesday during a news conference.
But he added, “It’s a democratic process. They can go ahead and do so.”
The third petition, which was filed by former senator Wigberto Tañada, Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Iniguez, Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Bishop Antonio Tobias, Adelaida Ygrubay, Shamah Bulangis and Cassandra Deluria, said a joint session to review the declaration is “mandatory” under the 1987 Constitution.
“[T]he physical convening of a joint session contemplates a physical convening… jurisprudence holds that the power to declare martial law or suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, while vested in the President, is shared with Congress; in order for Congress to exercise its power, it necessarily must convene jointly,” the petition read, saying the legislative review is a “safeguard” against executive overreach.
Petitioners said failure to hold a joint session “deprives lawmakers of a deliberative and interrogatory process to review martial law” and also deprives the public of transparent proceedings necessary for a clear understanding of the factual bases of the declaration.
“Given previous experiences with martial law, where proceedings were fraught with secrecy, a public, transparent and deliberative process is necessary to quell the people’s fears against executive overreach.
“Petitioners Tañada and Ygrubay are survivors of Presidential Decree 1081 under Ferdinand Marcos and have experienced first-hand the mischief and danger of the gross use of executive powers under the mantle of martial law. These fears are not speculative; they are grounded on collective and documented experience,” the petition also read.
The two petitions before the High Court also assailed martial law and the SC is set to hear oral arguments on them on June 13-15.
The first petition was filed by opposition lawmakers led by Edcel Lagman, Tomasito Villarin, Gary Alejano, Emmanuel Billones and Teddy Brawner Baguilat Jr.
These lawmakers said contrary to claims of Malacañang, there is no invasion or rebellion endangering public safety that can justify President Duterte’s declaration of Proclamation 216, which also suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, effectively allowing warrantless arrests of persons suspected of commission of the two offenses.
The second petition was filed by former senator Rene Saguisag, former Commission on Elections chief Christian Monsod, former Commission on Human Rights head Loretta Ann Rosales, PhilHealth president Alexander Padilla, Sen. Leila de Lima and lawyer Rene Gorospe.
According to well-placed sources in the High Court, SC Justice Mariano del Castillo will be designated to make a thorough review of the case and shall make his recommendations and draft decision on the matter.
Del Castillo will be the ponente of the case.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said the petitioners in the Supreme Court “apparently have misread the provision of the Constitution.”
“The Constitution cannot be clearer. Congress is only required to convene and vote jointly on the proclamation of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus if it intends to revoke such proclamation and suspension,” Panelo added in a statement.
“It might be unknown to the petitioners, but the majority of both Houses of Congress [had]already publicly expressed their support [for]the President’s swift and decisive initiative to address the then deteriorating situation in Mindanao,” he said.
Since Congress voted to support the declaration of martial law, Panelo pointed out, “there is therefore no reason for it to convene to vote to support or revoke Proclamation 216.”
Congress, however, may still jointly convene and vote on the extension of the effectivity of the proclamation, he said.
“Pursuant to the Constitution, Proclamation 216 shall be effective only for a period of 60 days. However, upon the initiative of the President, Congress may extend [it]if the rebellion persists and public safety requires it,” the President’s lawyer added.
CATHERINE S. VALENTE