Philippine lawmakers ask top court to nullify martial law

MANILA. Church leaders and former senator Wigberto
Philippines' Duterte faces martial law legal challenge

07 June, 2017

THE "Magnificent 7" at the House of Representatives on Monday challenged before the Supreme Court the constitutionality of President Duterte's Proclamation 216 imposing martial law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao.

Aside from Lagman, the other petitioners are Akbayan Rep. Tomasito Villarin, Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, Capiz Rep. Emmanuel Billones, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat Jr. and Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice.

In seeking a joint session, the petitioners cited that the 1987 Constitution "is replete with built-in safeguards as a direct outcome of the abuses that the country and its democratic institutions had to endure under Martial Law".

Proclamation No. 216 was issued by the President last May 23.

The petitioners said Congressional leaders allied with Duterte were derelict in their constitutional duty and did not convene a joint session of Congress to vote whether or not to revoke the martial law proclamation.

"Who are these rabble-rousers to say that there is no factual basis for the declaration of martial law?"

They also questioned the declaration because the president "acted alone", without any recommendation from defense and military officials.

"In the absence of any recommendation from the defense and military authorities and without prior consultation with them, the President acted on his own perception and consequently the Proclamation lacks sufficient factual basis as it is bereft of official advice, counsel and coordination", the petition further reads.

The lawmakers said that contrary to Malacañang's claim, there is no invasion or rebellion endangering public safety that can justify President Duterte's issuance of Proclamation 216, which also suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, effectively allowing warrantless arrests.

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"2. Mere conclusions of fact and law on the pretended existence of rebellion and/or invasion will not serve as sufficient basis since errant conclusions have no legal pedigree".

Considering the network and alliance-building activities among terrorist groups, local criminals, and lawless armed men, the siege of Marawi City is a vital cog in attaining their long-standing goal: "absolute control over the entirety of Mindanao", the report read.

Calida, the government's top lawyer, on Monday said that he is ready to defend Proclamation No. 216 and he is confident that the government will win. "They do not know what is happening on the ground", Duterte said then.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto C. Abella, for his part, said in a press conference yesterday: "Regarding the efforts of the independent parties, that's a prerogative to do so, however, the report has been submitted to Congress already regarding the matter and so let's see how it unfolds".

"4. The Police Chief of Malabang in Lanao del Sur, Senior Inspector Romeo Enriquez, is alive and was not beheaded by the terrorists, contrary to the claim of President Duterte upon his arrival from Russian Federation on 24 May 2017".

According to SC spokesperson Theodore Te, the high court has directed the Office of the Solicitor General, on behalf of respondents Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Defense Secretary and Martial law administrator Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Eduardo Año, to comment on the petition not later than June 12.

"That's their right to petition. So, there is no more reason for it to be nullified since it is not done arbitrarily", he said.

Duterte made the declaration a few hours after militants flying black IS flags rampaged through the southern city of Marawi, triggering clashes with security forces that are still ongoing and have left at least 178 people dead.

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