Two of the 11 justices who voted in favor of upholding the validity of martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus were Justices Presbitero Velasco, Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, and Diosdado Peralta. Thus, they concurred with the ponencia of Justice Del Castillo in dismissing the consolidated petitions questioning the constitutionality of the presidential issuance. While they vary in emphases and approaches, all three tackled in their written opinions some of the technical and substantive issues raised in the consolidated petitions.
On the preliminary issue as to whether or not the petitions docketed as G.R. Nos. 231658, 231771, and 231774 are the “appropriate proceeding” covered by paragraph 3, Section 18, Article VII of the Constitution, both Peralta and De Castro were of the opinion that the petitions were correctly lodged before the Court to examine the factual basis for the declaration of martial law and the suspension of habeas corpus. De Castro, however, was of the considered view that a petition under Section 18, Article VII is not the only appropriate proceeding. To her, the issue “may be raised in any action or proceeding where the resolution of such issue is germane to the causes of action of a party or the reliefs prayed for in the complaint or petition.” Velasco, on the other hand, subscribed to the notion that a petition praying for an inquiry into the “sufficiency of the factual basis of the proclamation of martial law” is sui generis. Hence, according to him, it would be problematic to pigeonhole any petition to question the factual basis under the rules issued by the Court for doing so would put undue restraint to petitioners. For his part, Peralta said that the role of the Court is not to question the wisdom of the President in declaring martial law but to examine on whether he acted with grave abuse of discretion or on whether he acted arbitrarily.
On the main substantive issue as to whether the proclamation of martial law and the suspension of the writ rest on sufficient factual basis, Peralta, in his discussion, concurred with the position of the Office of the Solicitor General that the siege of Marawi City is not “merely a result of counter-measures against the government’s pursuit of Isnilon Hapilon, but is, in fact, a strategic and well-coordinated attack to overthrow the present government and to establish a wilayah in Mindanao.” The siege, insofar as he is concerned, “shows a clear purpose to take over a portion of the Philippine territory.”
De Castro was also one with the majority in saying that the President was justified in declaring martial law and that the respondents “had convincingly shown that the series of violent acts and atrocities committed by the Abu Sayyaf and Maute terrorist groups were “intended to lay the groundwork for the eventual establishment of a DAESH wilayah or province in Mindanao.”
On the propriety of placing the entire region of Mindanao under martial rule, Peralta pointed out that to limit martial law only in Marawi is absurd. He reasoned that to follow a ‘’piece-meal” proclamation of martial law, the President would have to declare it repeatedly. According to him, since rebellion is a continuing crime, there is no need for actual rebellion to occur in every single town or city of Mindanao in order to validate the proclamation of martial law or suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the entire island because the declaration itself already covers the whole of Mindanao. In addition, Peralta said that the rebellion being perpetrated by the ISIS-linked rebel groups is not limited to the acts committed in Marawi City. And that the criminal acts done in furtherance of the purpose of rebellion may be done even in places outside the City. Furthermore, the common intent of the ISIS-linked rebel groups is to take control of Mindanao from the government for the purpose of establishing the region as a wilayah.
For her part, De Castro likewise considered misplaced the contention that martial law should have been declared only in Marawi City. She adopts the position by the majority that the president was correct in his action. She explained: “Since the President possesses the means and wherewithal to access vital and classified information from the government’s entire intelligence apparatus, he is given wide latitude to define the metes and bounds within which martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus should take effect.”
As a final thought, Peralta reminded us of the powers entrusted to the President to protect the nation which could not afford to “stand still and be a helpless victim of ordinary crimes, terrorism, rebellion or invasion.” This was also reiterated by Velasco who warned us that “our fears should not hold us back from employing a power necessary to fight for our sovereignty and the integrity of our national territory under the auspices of democracy and civil authority.” He enjoined us to “concede that the framers of our Constitution, informed by lessons of history, guarded the “foundations of civil liberty against the abuses of unlimited power.”
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