SC can’t force Congress to convene on martial law | Inquirer News
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SC can’t force Congress to convene on martial law

By: - Reporter / @MRamosINQ
/ 07:35 AM July 26, 2017

The Supreme Court (SC) ruled on Tuesday that the 1987 Constitution did not explicitly mandate lawmakers to hold a joint session for the purpose of reviewing a martial law proclamation.

A day after President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his second State of the Nation Address, the high court tossed out the two separate mandamus petitions that had sought to compel the Senate and the House of Representatives to deliberate on Proclamation No. 216.

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Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, one of the counsels for the petitioners, expressed disappointment over the tribunal’s ruling, describing it a “strange and unfortunate result.”

“The decision of the Congress to convene in joint session to extend martial law in Mindanao was already an institutional choice to comply with the Constitution,” Hilbay said in a statement.

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“The court’s decision is a step away from transparency and accountability, a path that Congress had already taken when it extended martial law,” he lamented.

In issuing Proclamation No. 216 on May 23, President Duterte placed Mindanao under martial law and also suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

On July 4, with the affirmative votes of 11 justices, the SC upheld the constitutionality of the President’s martial law order.

During its weekly en banc session on Tuesday, the 15-member tribunal voted unanimously to reject the mandamus petitions filed by two groups represented by former Sen. Rene Saguisag, former Commission on Elections chair Christian Monsod and some Catholic bishops.

‘No grave abuse’

Theodore Te, the high court’s spokesperson, said 13 of the magistrates ruled that the legislators did not commit grave abuse of discretion when they opted not to meet after the President declared martial law following the May 23 attack of the Islamic State-inspired Maute terror group in Marawi City.

Te said Associate Justices Marvic Leonen and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa agreed to dismiss the petitions for being moot after senators and congressmen convened on July 22 and granted the Chief Executive’s request to extend martial law until Dec. 31, 2017.

“Article 7, Section 18 [of the Constitution] 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 a press briefing.

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The 30-year-old Constitution says 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.”

It says Congress may prolong the martial law declaration “for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it,” but only “upon the initiative of the President.”

‘Meaningful’

According to Hilbay, convening a joint congressional session is “meaningful” as it lets the lawmakers speak on the matter besides informing “the nation about the state of affairs from the perspective of government and the people of Marawi City.”

“Clearly, joint public deliberation is just as, if not even more, important when a President initially declares martial law as when he extends it,” Hilbay said.

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TAGS: 1987 Constitution, Florin Hilbay, Marawi siege, Mindanao martial law, Rodrigo Duterte, Supreme Court
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