Justice fears SC ruling paves way for permanent martial
The Supreme Court’s validation of the extension of martial law in Mindanao may have opened the door to a permanent state of martial law, according to one of the five magistrates who disagreed with the decision.
Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza said the Supreme Court abdicated its power to review presidential declarations of martial law when it upheld the government’s argument that military rule was necessary because of the rebels’ “capability” to sow discord.
“Worse, it would open the country to the possibility of a permanent state of martial law, as the Philippines has a long history of rebellions motivated by diverse religious, ideological, regional and other interests,” Jardeleza said in his dissenting opinion.
Moreover, Jardeleza maintained that the government failed to prove actual rebellion and actual threat to public safety that could have justified the extension of martial law in Mindanao.
He said the acts of rebel groups showed that rebellions were “episodic” and were considered continuing crimes under Philippine jurisprudence.
“This criminal law doctrine, however, was never envisioned to be a justification to declare martial law whenever and wherever a rebel may be found,” Jardeleza stressed.
In a 10-5 vote, the tribunal last week upheld Congress’ Joint Resolution No. 4 on Dec. 13, 2017, granting President Rodrigo Duterte’s request to extend martial law.
After the President imposed martial law in Mindanao on May 23 last year, Congress even extended the imposition beyond the 60 days prescribed in the Constitution, he said.
In denying various petitions against the extension, Jardeleza said the high court was saying it had no power to review the decision of Congress.
Jardeleza argued there was also no “reasonable proof of scale” to determine that the President was justified in exercising his power to impose martial law.
“Ensuring that the President has enough flexibility and discretion on when to impose martial law is not sufficient justification for taking on a ‘permissive’ approach,” he pointed out.
Jardeleza said the military gave data on the rebels’ manpower and firearms, the barangays they controlled, as well as the number of violent incidents they had initiated against government troops.
“[But] there is nothing in the record to show that there are hostile groups engaged in actual and sustained armed hostilities with government forces,” Jardeleza said.
He said there was no proof that rebels were holding territory and preventing authorities from carrying out their duties.
There are likewise no proof of the claimed links between local and foreign terrorist groups, such as Islamic State.
“Lest I be misunderstood, I am not discounting or belittling the damage to life, limb and property caused by the reported continued attacks of the hostile groups,” Jardeleza said.
“Granting all of the government’s allegations to be true, however, I do not find these to be sufficient basis to warrant any continued restriction or of suspension of fundamental civil liberties,” he said.
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