Petitioners vs martial law, respondents’ counsel face off in preliminary conference

June 12, 2017 - 11:21 PM

MANILA – Lawyers for the petitioners and respondents faced off in a preliminary conference at the Supreme Court Monday to finalize the issues to be tackled in three-day oral arguments on petitions questioning martial law, starting June 13.

Representing the respondents were officials of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), who also submitted, as directed by the court, a consolidated comment on the petitions. The OSG submission detailed the information that provided the basis for the decision to issue presidential Proclamation 216 on the night of May 23, hours after 500
Maute Group-led terrorists went on a rampage in Marawi City.

Among those who attended the preliminary conference Monday for the petitioners were Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and Atty. Neri Colmenares, former party-list representative.

According to Colmenares, the SC directed Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the chief implementor of martial law, to appear and testify at the hearing called by the en banc.

The OSG, meanwhile, asked the high court to turn the three days of oral arguments into an executive session because sensitive issues of national security will inevitably be discussed.

The petitioners opposed this OSG move. Lagman said that, based on their experience as lawmakers with executive sessions involving members of the Cabinet, there has never been an issue raised that affected national security.

“Ang experience namin sa House, when there was executive session, there was nothing, [no] issues affecting national security which [were] divulged during that session. So I think we should not be conducting matters affecting the state in secret unless they can justify that national security will [be involved],” said Lagman.

3 petitions consolidated

In all, five petitions were filed on martial law in Mindanao. The SC directed the consolidation of the Lagman-led petition with the last two petitions that were filed on Friday, asking it to throw out Proclamation No. 216 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on May 23.

The fourth petition questioning the basis for the proclamation was filed Friday by the Makabayan bloc of lawmakers, along with organizations of indigenous people and Mindanao workers.

The fifth petition was filed by four Marawi residents, represented by Atty. Christian Monsod, former Comelec chairman and member of the Constitutional Commission that drafted the 1987 Charter.

The SC en banc order sent to the petitioners said the last two petitions filed were sufficient in form and substance.

The petitioners were asking the SC to review whether there was enough factual basis for martial law.

At the same time, they wanted the high court to void the proclamation – the same prayer of the first petition filed by the so-called “Magnificent 7” lawmakers led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman.

According to the SC, most of the allegations, issues and arguments raised in the last two petitions were similar to those of the Lagman group, and therefore the three petitions should be consolidated.

Two more petitions on martial law are pending before the SC. One petition was filed by the group of detained Sen. Leila de Lima, Atty. Alex Padilla, ex-CHR chair Etta Rosales.

The other petition was filed by bishops and former senator Wigberto Tañada, asking the SC to order Congress to convene a joint session to tackle the martial law proclamation.