SC ruling: Duterte has discretion to place entire PH under martial law
President Rodrigo Duterte may place the entire country under martial law even if an armed rebellion is only confined within a specific area as the “discretion to determine the territorial scope of martial law lies with the President,” according to the Supreme Court.
On Wednesday night, a day after declaring the constitutionality of Duterte’s Proclamation No. 216, the tribunal made public the main ruling and the 14 other separate opinions on the three petitions which challenged the validity of the President’s martial law order.
In an 82-page decision penned by Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, the high court said while the 1987 Constitution authorized it to review the President’s power to declare military rule, it said it could not limit his authority as chief executive.
It also ruled that the May 23 siege of Marawi City by the Islamic State-inspired Maute terror group was an act of rebellion, which justified Duterte’s decision to impose martial law and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus all over Mindanao.
“The Constitution grants him the prerogative whether to put the entire country or parts thereof under martial law,” the 15-member tribunal ruled. “There is no constitutional edict that martial law should be confined only in the particular place where the armed armed public uprising actually transpired.”
“This is not only practical, but also logical,” it added. “Martial law is an urgent measure since at stake is the nation’s territorial sovereignty and survival.”
For instance, it said the President should not wait for a rebellion to happen in Quezon City to hand down a martial law order if the armed uprising was happening only in the court’s compound on Taft Avenue in Manila.
“If that is the case, then the President would have to wait until every remote corner in the country is infested with rebels before he could declare martial law in the entire Philippines,” it said. “For sure, this is not the scenario envisioned by the Constitution.”
“The President’s duty to maintain peace and public safety is not limited only to the place where there is actual rebellion; it extends to other areas where the present hostilities are in danger of spilling over,” the court stressed.
The magistrates also allayed the fears of the petitioners opposing Proclamation No. 216, saying the 30-year-old charter had provided enough safeguards to prevent Duterte from abusing his power.
“The importance of martial law in the context of our society should outweigh one’s prejudices and apprehensions against it,” the court said. “The significance of martial law should not be undermined by unjustified fears and past experience.” /atm
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