By Rey Panaligan
In a unanimous vote of 15 justices, the Supreme Court (SC) dismissed yesterday two petitions that wanted to compel Congress to convene in a joint session to tackle the validity of the declaration of martial law in Mindanao last May 23.
Thirteen justices, led by Justice Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro, voted to dismiss the petitions “on the ground that Congress did not gravely abuse its discretion in not convening jointly upon the President’s issuance of Proclamation No. 216.”
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno, Senior Justices Antonio T. Carpio, and Justices Presbitero J. Velasco Jr., Diosdado M. Peralta, Mariano C. Del Castillo, Lucas P. Bersamin, Estela Perlas Bernabe, Jose Catral Mendoza, Francis Jardeleza, Samuel Martirez, Noel Tijam, and Andres Reyes Jr. joined De Castro in her majority decision.
They said that Section 18, Article VII 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.”
Justices Marvic Mario Victor Leonen and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa voted to dismiss the petitions for being “moot and academic.”
The petitions dismissed were those filed by the groups of Alexander Padilla and former senator Wigberto Tanada.
Congress had voted unanimously last Saturday to extend the imposition of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao until the end of this year.
Earlier, the SC had declared constitutional Proclamation No. 216 that declared martial law in Mindanao.
Named respondents in the two dismissed petitions were Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez who are represented by Solicitor General Jose Calida.
Section 18 provides that “the President may declare martial law and suspend the writ of habeas corpus only “in cases of invasion, rebellion or when public safety requires it.”
The same section mandates the SC “to review, in an appropriate proceeding filed by any citizen, the sufficiency of the factual basis of the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ or the extension thereof, and must promulgate its decision thereon within thirty days from its filing.”
It also provides that “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. Upon the initiative of the President, the Congress may, in the same manner, extend such proclamation or suspension for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.”
Two days after the imposition of martial law in Mindanao last May 23, the President submitted to Congress his report in compliance with the Constitution.
Last May 31, the House of Representatives passed House Resolution No. 1050 while the Senate adopted Resolution No. 388 both of which expressed support to Proclamation No. 216.
The dismissal of the petitions, in effect, adopted the position of Calida that Congress is not required to convene in joint session to support a martial law declaration.
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