The final word? – Manila Standard


The Supreme Court has spoken. Now I wonder if those opposed to President Rodrigo Duterte’s martial law proclamation covering the whole of Mindanao will shut up on this matter already.

In a largely expected 11-3-1 vote, the high court found factual basis for Duterte’s Proclamation 216, signed last May 23 in the Russian Federation, of all places. The four dissenters to the majority opinion written by Justice Mariano del Castillo were, also expectedly, sympathizers and/or appointees of former President Noynoy Aquino.

On hindsight, there was no other way for the court to have decided the question of the legality of the martial law proclamation, which has been given to the court to resolve for the very first time since the review function was given to it by the 1987 Constitution. If the Supreme Court had found no factual basis, it would have sparked a real constitutional crisis, because both Houses of Congress had already agreed that Duterte was justified in issuing the decree in the wake of the attempted terrorist takeover of Marawi City.

Of course, it’s not really the first time that martial law was declared under the 1987 basic law. In 2009, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo proclaimed martial law in Maguindanao, in the aftermath of the bloody massacre of dozens of people, most of them journalists, in that province.

But Arroyo lifted martial law even before the court could decide on petitions brought before it. The Supreme Court at the time, probably relieved that it did not have to decide either way, simply declared that the lifting had made the issue moot, thus ensuring that it would have to be decided sometime in the future.

That was yesterday, when the court, for all intents and purposes, admitted that it had no authority to gather evidence like a prosecutor’s office or a lower court. And the tribunal also left the door wide open for Congress to finally rethink what is now perceived to be a purely political question best left to the executive and the legislature to decide, put in by the framers of the Constitution to prevent a return of Marcos-style totalitarian military rule.

Most legal experts and legislators agree that judicial review of a martial law proclamation was intended as another layer to check a return to military-backed autocracy, which why it was included in the constitution. But the framers never imagined the rise of a new virulent terrorism that would require martial law —or that a sitting Court would actually pass judgment on the issue of whether or not a president should be allowed to declare it.

All we know is that despite the animosity that the framers generally felt towards the Marcos regime, they chose to give an incumbent president the option of imposing military rule, albeit severely hampered by constitutional restrictions. And that was exactly what Duterte did—though he proclaimed that he would respect and abide by any decision of the court on this suddenly important issue.

Of course, to answer my original question, I don’t really know if the enemies of Duterte will be silenced by the ruling yesterday of the Supreme Court, which used to be the final arbiter of any legal question. After all, these are the people who, in their never-ending bid to bring down the president, think nothing of going to venues like the International Criminal Court once they’ve run out of local forums for their interminable campaign to thwart the will of both the president and the people.

* * *

An unholy alliance of militant groups and big business interests heavily invested in renewable energy has been working to force the government and consumers to continue giving incentives to so-called “green” power sources, even if the Duterte administration wants to end these unconscionable de facto subsidies. The campaign to coerce the state, through the Energy Regulatory Commission, to continue giving feed-in tariff (FIT) incentives is cleverly hidden as a “climate justice” issue, even if it only benefits the Lopez business empire that has a lock on natural gas and other RE sources, without regard for the additional cost on the consumer and despite the availability of more reliable and more economical sources like coal.

The move to besmirch the ERC for entering into supposed “midnight deals,” seen in this light, is nothing but a ploy to force the regulator to allow FIT charges on all power consumers, who will have to shoulder the additional burden on their power bills. The leftist groups involved in the campaign such as Sanlakas, Freedom from Debt Coalition and the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice are thus allowing themselves to be used to batter the ERC in order to push the Lopez companies’ drive for costly, intermittent RE sources.

When the Lopezes lost their chief campaigner inside the government in the person of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez, they have turned to these groups to push their agenda. And while no one is against clean energy, the people who pay the obligatory tariffs must be made to understand where exactly the subsidies are going—and they’re going straight to the Lopez group.

Right now, when the Philippines needs all the cheap and reliable energy that is can use to push infrastructure and economic growth, the people selling us expensive, unsustainable RE sources must be exposed. These people are not for climate justice, really, but agents of a family that wants to get subsidies for their expensive, uncompetitive products.

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