SC junks mandamus petitions vs martial law in Mindanao

MANILA-- The Supreme Court (SC) dismissed the consolidated mandamus petitions urging the Senate and House of Representatives to convene in joint session and review President Rodrigo Duterte's Proclamation 216 declaring martial law and suspending the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao.

SC spokesman Theodore Te announced the directive was issued following Tuesday's regular en banc session of the magistrates.

Te said the magistrates voted unanimously to dismiss the two petitions filed by two separate groups led by former senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto TaAada both seeking issuance of a mandamus that would compel Senate and the House of Representatives to convene jointly to review the declaration.

Voting unanimously, dismissed the petitions on the ground that that Congress did not gravely abuse its discretion in not convening jointly upon the President's issuance of Proclamation No. 216 (S. of 2017) as Article VII, Sec. 18 imposes no such duty on Congress to convene, such duty (to convene and vote) being limited to instances where Congress intends to revoke or extend any proclamation of martial law or suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, Te told reporters during the press briefing.

Thirteen of them held that the high court cannot compel Congress, agreeing with the argument of the Office of the Solicitor General that it has no power to issue the mandamus due to the separation of powers of the judiciary and the legislature as coequal branches.

Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro penned the ruling on the said petitions.

The remaining two, on the other hand, believed that the petitions should be dismissed for being moot and academic after the Senate and House convened in joint session on Saturday to extend the martial law declaration in Mindanao until yearend as requested by President Duterte. They are Associate Justices Marvic Leonen and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa.

Last Saturday, the Philippine Congress, held a special joint session voted to extend the period of martial law until the year-end.

Results of the joint voting showed that 261 lawmakers voted in the affirmative while 18 lawmakers voted in the negative.

On the part of the Senate, 16 senators voted in favor of the motion, while four were against it.

In the Senate, it was Senator Gringo Honasan who motioned to extend the period of martial law to five months.

Meanwhile, 245 House members approved the motion, while 14 rejected it.

In the House, it was House Majority Leader Rodolfo FariAas who moved to extend the period of martial law to five months.

Earlier this month, the high court dismissed three other consolidated petitions filed by opposition lawmakers led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, local Mindanao leaders led by Lumad leader Eufemia Campos Cullamat and a group of women from Marawi led by Norkaya Mohamad seeking to strike down Proclamation No. 216.

The SC dismissed the three consolidated petitions challenging the constitutionality of President Duterte's proclamation of martial law in Mindanao.

The ruling approved by a majority of 11 of 15 justices of the high court dismissed the petitions led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman that there was no rebellion but only acts of terrorism and mere imminent danger, which would not suffice to meet the requirements for martial law declaration under Article VII, Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution.

President Duterte issued Proclamation No. 216 on May 23 declaring a state of martial law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao. This was a result of the attack of the Maute group in Marawi City, which is still ongoing and is subject to military operations.

Source: Philippine News Agency