WHEN efforts were made to convene a joint session of Congress to review President Duterte’s proclamation of martial law in Mindanao, people were skeptical about any chance the legislators would revoke the order.
Skeptics were right. The Senate and the House chose not to sit down together and discuss it. As if they separately took one look and said, approved, with some thinking. The thought being just to trust the president’s assessment and decision.
Apparently, both chambers ignored the guidance of the Supreme Court in the case of Fortun vs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (which questioned GMA’s declaration of martial law in Maguindanao in 2008).
In the Fortun case, the tribunal called the job of Congress as “joint” and “sequential,” meaning (1) martial law is decided not by the president alone but also by Congress, a “tandem” duty, and (2) the power to review and revoke or extend martial law follows the act of proclaiming it. On the extent of the shared power, Congress may not only look into “factual basis” but may also determine its proportion and wisdom.
OK, Congress trusted Duterte so much that it simplified its work and didn’t even deliberate on its vote. Six minority House members were among those who disagreed and yesterday (June 5) they went to the Supreme Court to assail Proc. #216’s constitutionality.
Without speculating on how the SC will rule on the petition, one must be fascinated over how it will resolve the issue of “factual basis.” Will it determine the facts the same way a trial court does? Or will it just rely on what the state says the facts are? For now, the facts are, as far as they support Proc. #216, what the president said they are.
Interestingly, many “facts” presented to justify the proclamation are disputed by the petitioners. Would the high tribunal find out if:
- Amai Pakpak Medical Center was overrun by Mautes and had stopped its operation?
- Land Bank branch in Marawi was ransacked by the rebels?
- Ninoy Aquino school was shut down and Marawi Central Elementary School was razed to the ground?  Malabang, Lanao del Sur police chief Romeo Enriquez was beheaded?
- Marawi City Hall was taken over and Mindanao State University occupied by the raiders?
Those facts, presented as bases for the Mindanao martial law, are allegedly belied by officials and civilians concerned: their denials support the petition questioning Proc #216.
What doesn’t change
Duterte might lift martial law before the 60-day period expires. Or he’d seek an extension if the fighting continues. Perhaps the SC could rule before then if “factual basis” did exist. Or different conditions might supervene and overhaul the set of facts and make litigation moot or irrelevant.
Situations can change but the Constitution, as Sen. Grace Poe once reminded a flip-flopping senator, remains the same.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on June 06, 2017.
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