MANILA – Saying the “supermajority in both Chambers can be wrong legally and politically,” Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman declared Sunday a plan to question in court the overwhelming vote (261 against 18) of the joint special session extending the period of martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus for another 150 days or up to December 31, 2017 in the whole of Mindanao.
“Such landslide result must not deter resort to the Supreme Court,” said Lagman, who had led one of the petitioning groups that questioned in the SC Proclamation 216, the original 60-day martial law edict that President Duterte signed on May 23, after the Marawi siege began.
According to Lagman, one of 14 members of the House of Representatives who lodged a “No” vote on Saturday against the 150-day extenson, said several “justiciable issues” can be raised before the High Court:
1. Lack of sufficient factual basis for the extension since what is happening in Marawi is lawless violence amounting to terrorism, not actual rebellion.
Under the Constitution, it is only when there is actual rebellion or invasion, not terrorism, when public safety requires it that martial law can be declared.
2. The extension’s coverage over the entire Mindanao is infirm because there is no actual rebellion in the rest of Mindanao, which fact no less than Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana admitted before the joint special session.
Lorenzana also admitted that civilian authorities continue to function in Marawi City and the whole of Mindanao, Lagman noted.
3. The extension for 150 days is inordinately long and is against the intent of the Constitution.
Among the safeguards provided for in the Constitution are the (1) limited duration of the declaration of martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus; and (2) the mandatory requirement that any extension must be concurred to by the Senate and the House. These safeguards are eroded by an extremely long extension, Lagman asserted.
While the Constitution does not provide for the duration of the extension, the discretion of the Congress in fixing the period of the extension is not absolute.
The Congress must be guided by the constitutional precept that any declaration of martial law and suspension of the writ of habeas corpus or its extension must only be for a limited period like the original Proclamation which is limited to only 60 days.
It stands to reason, said Lagman, that any extension should not exceed 60 days, the limited duration of Proclamation No. 216 which originally imposed martial law.
Nograles counters 3 arguments
The plan of the Makabayan Bloc of militant party-list groups and the so-called Magnificent 7 of the House opposition to file a petition against Saturday’s joint session voting to extend martial law is understandable, but based on flawed arguments, in the view of Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles.
“I am confident that, when this reaches the SC – as what happened when they first questioned the original proclamation of President Duterte – the high court will side with Congress in the move to extend martial law,” Nograles said in a radio interview.
Nograles said the “Yes” camp can counter Lagman’s argument that what is happening in Marawi is not rebellion but simply lawless violence. “Sasabihin natin na hindi lang ito lawless violence kundi ito po ay isang rebelyon kung saan katulad nung desisyon ng Korte Suprema dun sa unang pagdeklara ng martial law, sinang-ayunan naman ng Korte Suprema ang sinabi ng gobyerno na ito ay rebelyon at hindi lang terorismo dahil ang kanilang adhikain, ang kanilang objective ay magkaroon ng separate state dito sa Marawi at ibang parte ng Mindanao.”
Asked to comment on Lagman’s second argument, i.e., that the scope is too wide, when it can be limited to just Lanao del Sur, Nograles recalled in the DZBB interview that this same argument was included in the Lagman group’s first petition, and there the SC ruled there is basis for blanketing the entire Mindanao.
“At siguro for practical reasons, masasabi natin na sasang-ayon tayo dito sa pagdeclare ng martial law sa buong Mindanao dahil nga yong mga Maute…yong patriarch ng Maute san ba siya nahuli…sa Davao City. Yung nanay naman nahuli sa Lanao del Sur, hindi sa Marawi. Tapos meron pang ibang officials at higher ups ng rebeldeng terorista na nahuli sa iba ibang parte pa ng Mindanao,” Nograles pointed out.
“So Mindanao is under threat. May threat na magkakaroon ng terrorist at rebeldeng mga attack. In fact ang threat is nasa buong kapuluan ng Mindanao at may threat pa na ito ay lalagpas at pupunta sa Visayas at Luzon. So to contain ang threat within Mindanao…naging successful naman ang military at ang PNP dahil don sa pag declare ng martial law in the entire island of Mindanao.”
Meanwhile, Nograles countered the “No” side’s argument that the Constitution had implied that any extension must be limited to only 60 days, and cannot go beyond the original period of martial law.
“The fact he [Lagman] admits his argument is implied, right there one can see its weakness,” Nograles said, partly in Filipino.
“The constitution provides that the first declaration of martial law is not beyond 60 days. The constitution also provides that Congress may revoke or extend it. So [when the] constitution [says we may] extend it, [there is no written rule there about how the length of the] extension. [This is] thin ice — their agument that the limitation is “implied”.
He said it was well within the powers of Congress to determine how long the extension should be, and it voted to grant the President’s request to extend until Dec. 31.
Nograles does not see the SC trifling with the “wisdom” of Congress in this respect.