SC aspirants support Duterte’s martial law

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SUPREME Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez on Monday said there is no need for Congress to convene in a joint session, unless they intend to revoke President Rodrigo Duterte’s Proclamation 216 placing the entire Mindanao under martial law.

Marquez offered this opinion when he and other aspirants for a looming vacancy in the Supreme Court faced the Judicial and Bar Council and were questioned about various legal issues.

“I don’t think there is a need for Congress to convene on President Duterte’s martial law after receiving his report. Congress only needs to convene if they intend to revoke martial law,” Marquez told the seven-member JBC.

Marquez, who was first to face the seven-member council during the public interview for the post to be vacated by retirement of Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes next month, was asked for his opinion on President Duterte’s declaration of martial law.

“The Constitution is very clear, the President can declare martial law and it is very clear that the SC can look into the declaration. 

President Rodrigo Duterte

This is a fair issue,” Marquez said when asked by regular member and retired SC Justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez about his views on the President’s proclamation of martial law.

Marquez, who rose from the ranks in the judiciary over the last 26 years, was endorsed by the Philippine Judge’s Association. He said he believes the Court should dismiss the petitions seeking to compel Congress to convene jointly and review the martial law proclamation.

Marquez said he also agreed with the majority decisions of the Supreme Court allowing former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to post bail in his pork barrel plunder case and allowing the burial of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani.

Seven other nominees–Court of Appeals Presiding Justice Andres Reyes Jr. and Associate Justices Ramon Bato, Apolinario Bruselas, Rosmari Carandang, Stephen Cruz, Ramon Paul Hernando and Jose Reyes–were also interviewed by JBC.

Reyes was also asked about martial law proclamation, an issue pending before the SC. He said he believes it is a power given to the discretion of the Chief Executive.

“When President Duterte declared it, he must have in possession sufficient factual basis which we do not have,” he said.

But Reyes said he would grant petitions seeking to convene Congress to review martial law.

Carandang declined to offer her opinion on the topic.

Bruselas, who was asked about a complaint filed against President Duterte before the International Criminal Court over extrajudicial killings in his war on drugs, said he believed the ICC has no jurisdiction over the matter, which the government has acted upon.

“I do not think the government is unwilling, nor is it unable to resolve extrajudicial killings. The fact that there is a Senate investigation means something is being done [about EJKs],” he said.

Only eight of the 12 nominees for the vacancy faced the JBC since the four other aspirants – CA Associate Justices Japar Dimaampao and Amy Lazaro Javier, Centro Escolar University law school vice dean Rita Linda Ventura-Jimeno and Pasig RTC Judge Rowena Apao-Adlawan–were already interviewed for the two previous vacancies from the retirement of Associate Justices Jose Perez and Arturo Brion in December last year.

The JBC, the seven-man council constitutionally tasked to screen nominees for vacant posts in the judiciary and the Offices of the Ombudsman, is chaired by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

The two ex-officio members are Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II for the executive and Senator Richard Gordon and Mindoro Oriental Rep. Reynaldo Umali on a term-sharing seat for the legislative.

The regular members of JBC are Gutierrez for retired magistrates, lawyer Jose Mejia for the academe, lawyer Milagros Fernan-Cayosa for the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and retired Judge Toribio Ilao for the private sector. 

In the Palace, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said there would be no repeat of the human rights abuses committed under martial law during the time of President Ferdinand Marcos, after Duterte said he plans to impose a “Marcos-copycat” martial law.

Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the President may have been speaking in jest, or referring to the “breadth and depth” of Marcos’ blanket implementation of martial law.

“He may had been very serious about tackling and dealing with the problems at hand and one of the solutions could be martial law but not to the extent of the abuses and we can be sure of that because of the previous guidance that he has already given,” Padilla said. 

“After all, in the pronouncement and declaration of martial law, didn’t he say if you are a law-abiding citizen and you’re a peace-loving citizen, martial law is not a problem you should worry about,” he added.

In the same news briefing, Padilla said that it would be “foolhardy” to withdraw troops from Marawi, despite the President’s pronouncements that he would do so if ordered by the Supreme Court. 

“Offensives will continue because there is a threat that is being faced and it would be foolhardy to stop the fight because martial law was lifted,” said Padilla.

In the Senate, opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros scored Duterte’s statement about a “Marcos-copycat” martial law. 

“There is no such thing as unlimited martial law,” Hontiveros said in Filipino. “And even if President Duterte manages to implement this type of martial law, I am confident that the people will oppose and defeat it.”

Also on Monday, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno expressed support for his appeal to transfer the Maute group rebellion cases from Cagayan de Oro to Taguig for better security.

Aguirre said he met with Sereno at the Supreme Court where they both agreed to hold the trial inside the Special Intensive Care Area of Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig.

On Monday, the Palace asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the three petitions seeking to nullify President Duterte’s Proclamation 216 placing the entire Mindanao under martial law because the declaration was justified and necessary to quell the rebellion instigated by Maute terrorist group, Abu Sayyaf Group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and 20 other terrorist organizations with ISIS links operating in Mindanao.

 The Office of the Solicitor General, counsel for Malacañang, administrator and implementor of martial law, said there exists sufficient bases for the martial law declaration to prevent the dismemberment of the Mindanao as part of Philippine territory amid a terrorist plan to establish a separate Islamic state.

“The survival of the State hangs in the balance,” Solicitor General Jose Calida told the SC, adding that the rebellion waged by Maute group, Abu Sayyaf and other terrorist organizations endanger public safety. With Macon Ramos-Aranta and John Paolo Bencito

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