ON PROCLAMATION NO. 216 DECLARING MARTIAL LAW AND SUSPENDING THE PRIVILEGE OF THE WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS IN THE WHOLE MINDANAO

SPONSORSHIP SPEECH OF
SENATOR FRANCIS N. PANGILINAN
FOR RESOLUTION NO. 390 CALLING A JOINT SESSION
TO DELIBERATE ON PROCLAMATION NO. 216
DECLARING MARTIAL LAW AND SUSPENDING THE PRIVILEGE OF
THE WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS IN THE WHOLE MINDANAO
30 MAY 2017

Last night, I received a text message from a resident of Marawi City who had fled to the nearby city together with his family because of the fighting.

He said that the airstrikes have burned down houses and business establishments. On behalf of the people of Marawi, he asked the government to stop the airstrikes both for their safety and to preserve their property.

Ang sabi niya, marami ang nangangamba kung ano ang kahihitnatnan ng labanan. Pagkatapos ng krisis, mayroon pa ba silang uuwian? Ano ang buhay at kabuhayan na kanilang babalikan?

The brief yet gripping message makes the best argument for Senate Resolution 390, which I, together with Senators Franklin Drilon, Leila de Lima, Bam Aquino, Risa Hontiveros, and Antonio Trillanes IV, have filed.

It calls on both chambers of Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives, to perform their “sacred duty and peremptory obligation” and hold a joint session and deliberate Proclamation 2016 that declared martial law and suspended the writ of habeas corpus in the entire Mindanao.

We stress, however, that we fully back efforts to neutralize the enemies of the state, bring them to the bar of justice, and restore peace and order in Marawi City and other areas affected by the criminal activities of these armed groups.
Peace, justice, and development should reign in Mindanao.

We lay down four bases in making this call:

One, the Supreme Court decision in Fortun v. Macapagal-Arroyo (G.R. No. 190293, March 20, 2012) explains that the President and the Congress “act in tandem” in exercising the power to proclaim martial law or suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

“They exercise the power, not only sequentially, but in a sense jointly since, after the President has initiated the proclamation or the suspension, only the Congress can maintain the same based on its own evaluation of the situation on the ground, a power that the President does not have,” according to the Supreme Court decision.

“Consequently, although the Constitution reserves to the Supreme Court the power to review the sufficiency of the factual basis of the proclamation or suspension in a proper suit, it is implicit that the Court must allow Congress to exercise its own review powers, which is automatic rather than initiated. XXX The constitutional validity of the President’s proclamation of martial law or suspension of the writ of habeas corpus is first a political question in the hands of Congress before it becomes a justiciable one in the hands of the Court,” read the same decision.

Two, as the President exercises the most extensive of government powers as head of state, head of government, and the commander-in-chief, his extra powers to declare martial law and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus must strictly comply with the Constitution.

Three, the Constitution guarantees transparency and accountability in government, respecting the right of the citizen to information of public interest, and the fundamental underlying principle of checks and balances amongst the separate branches of government.

In a joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives, we can determine the constitutional and factual validity of the proclamation, prevent abuses in its implementation, and ensure the safety of the people of Marawi and the whole of Mindanao.

Congress may also make recommendations on guidelines regarding the proper conduct of martial law, as part of its duty to ensure such are consistent with the rights of our citizens.

Four, we should not forget our painful experience with the imposition of martial law under the Marcos dictatorship.
This period in our history has, in fact, became impetus for the clear limitations on the President’s exercise of the extraordinary powers, including the mandate granted to Congress to make an independent determination if the constitutional grounds for the limited curtailment of the people’s rights are followed.

Ang usapin tungkol sa martial law noong panahon ng mga Marcos ay hindi lang kwento. May pinaghuhugutan ito mula sa personal na karanasan bilang isang aktibista na noon ay nakipaglaban din sa diktadurya. (Add personal stories here.)
Hindi nagbibiro si Pangulong Duterte nang sabihin niya na naging marahas ang martial law noon, at magiging marahas din siya ngayon kung kinakailangan. Iisa ang karakter ng martial law, kahit sino pa man ang nagpapatupad nito.

True, some have become disillusioned, some have grown tried, some have grown old. Matagal na tayo sa pakikibaka. Matanda na tayo. Perhaps, we think we have done our share. But then we look at the situation and see that before us, the problems are still there. Martial law is upon us. And the challenges are far-reaching.

For the Marawi resident who sent the text message and other families fleeing from the skirmishes; for our soldiers in the battlefield fighting the enemy; for the social workers and civic groups aiding the evacuees; for the ordinary Filipinos who are wary about what lies ahead, Congress should not simply nod to martial law and stand idly by.
Tungkulin ho natin ito sa Kongreso; huwag sana nating talikuran ang obligasyong ito.

Maraming salamat po.