OSG seeks dismissal of mandamus petitions vs martial law before SC

MANILA-- The Office of Solicitor General (OSG) on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the two consolidated mandamus petitions to order the Senate and House of Representatives to convene in joint session and vote jointly on President Rodrigo Duterte's Proclamation 216 declaring martial law and suspending the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao.

The OSG filed a 40-page memorandum on the two petitions of 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.

Named as respondents are Senate Pres. Aquilino "Koko" L. Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez, both of whom are to be represented by the OSG.

Solicitor General Jose C. Calida said the petitioners' assertion of a Congressional duty to convene in joint session does not only overextend the parameters set by the 1987 Constitution, but also imposes an unnecessary duty.

"While not mandatory, Congress neither procrastinated nor reneged on its sworn duties when it heard the basis of Proclamation No. 216 through a closed-door meeting with the country's top military officials, and thereafter collectively voiced its support through the issuances of their respective resolutions," Calida explained.

"Indeed, the Congress even went beyond its Constitutional duty respecting the proclamation or suspension," he noted.

"Petitioners should not be allowed to use the Honorable Supreme Court in testing the autonomy and independence of Congress as a co-equal branch and in interfering with its discretionary acts as granted by the Constitution," Calida opined.

"Prudence and respect for the co-equal departments of the government dictate that the Honorable Supreme Court should be cautious in entertaining actions that assail the constitutionality of the acts of the Executive or the Legislative department," the Solicitor General added.

Calida argued in a nutshell that Congress is not required to convene in joint session to support a martial law declaration under Article VII, Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution, which states: "The Congress, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its Members in regular or special session, may revoke such proclamation or suspension, which revocation shall not be set aside by the President. Upon the initiative of the President, the Congress may, in the same manner, extend such proclamation or suspension for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it."

"A plain reading of the Constitution will readily illustrate that it does not impose a duty upon Congress to convene in joint session to determine the validity of the declaration of martial law and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. It is only in cases of revocation or extension of the proclamation or suspension that Congress is required to vote jointly," he stressed.

He cited the moves of the House of Representatives and Senate to issue Resolutions 1050 and Resolution 388, respectively, to express support to the declaration of martial law in response to the report submitted by the President would suffice.

"Thus the act of Congress to vote jointly is not mandatory when the action taken is to affirm or express support to the proclamation or suspension," he said.

The solicitor general further argued that the SC has no power to issue the mandamus sought by petitioners, citing the separation of powers of the judiciary and the legislature as coequal branches.

"The matter of affirming, ratifying or not revoking the declaration of martial law and even the manner by which it is done is left and fully within the power, authority and discretion of Congress over which the Supreme Court has no power," he stressed.

"It is clear that under the separation of powers, 'courts may not intervene in the internal affair of the legislature; it is not within the province of courts to direct Congress how to do its work," Calida added.

The Supreme Court ended the three-day oral arguments on the three consolidated petitions challenging the constitutionality of Duterte's proclamation of martial law in Mindanao last June 15.

The 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, challenged the legality of Duterte's Proclamation No. 216 imposing a military rule and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao after terrorists occupied Marawi City on May 23.

The high court, which is required by the Constitution to resolve petitioners against martial law declaration within 30 days from filing, is set to rule on these petitions on July 4.

Source: Philippines News Agency