President Rodrigo Duterte scored a legal victory on Tuesday after the Supreme Court (SC) backed his imposition of martial law in Mindanao aimed at defeating terrorist groups who laid siege to Marawi City.
During Tuesday's en banc session, 11 justices voted to dismiss the consolidated petitions while three magistrates—Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa—believe the coverage of martial rule should be limited to some areas only.
Only Associate Justice Marvic Leonen voted for the junking of Proclamation 216, which was challenged for alleged lack of sufficient factual basis.
SC spokesperson Theodore Te did not divulge the basis for the Court's decision that was penned by Associate Justice Mariano Del Castillo.
The ruling can still be appealed.
"It is a decision of the Court, so subject to the Internal Rules (of the SC), any decision can be subjected to a motion for reconsideration by any losing party," Te said.
Malacañang on Tuesday hailed the SC's decision.
"The High Court has spoken: Proclamation 216 is constitutional. The President is sworn to protect the Filipino people. He will not waver in this commitment to end rebellion, the evil of terrorism and to liberate Marawi," presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella in a statement said.
"With the Supreme Court decision, the whole government now stands together as one against a common enemy," he added.
The SC heard the consolidated petitions filed by a group of opposition congressmen led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, activists and militant lawmakers, and four women residents of Marawi City—the site of vicious fighting between government troops and Maute group since May 23.
The petitioners and the Office of Solicitor General were given the chance to defend their positions in three days of oral arguments that ended with a closed-door briefing by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces chief General Eduardo Año on June 15.
For the petitioners, the armed conflict in Marawi did not necessarily call for the imposition of martial law.
They pointed out that terrorism does not equate to rebellion, noting that the attacks on Marawi City stemmed from an armed resistance by the Maute group to shield Abu Sayyaf leader and ISIS emir for Southeast Asia Isnilon Hapilon from capture.
The petitioners also feared martial law will "inevitably result" in abuses, atrocities and repression of human rights and civil liberties reminiscent of martial rule under the late President Ferdinand Marcos.
Dramatizing their call for an end to martial rule, activist groups led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan even staged a picket outside the SC ahead of Tuesday's vote.
But the government said martial law was necessary to quell rebellion since ISIS-inspired local rebel groups had taken up arms against the Philippine government to secede Mindanao from the republic and to deprive Duterte of his powers and prerogatives.
Duterte had said he would abide by the high tribunal's decision even as he vowed last Saturday to only listen to recommendations from the armed forces on whether to lift the martial rule or not.
"It's not dependent on the whim of the Supreme Court. Should I believe them? When I see the situation is still chaotic and you ask me to lift it? I will arrest you and put you behind bars," Duterte said in a speech before local officials.
"We can talk of anything else and make compromises maybe but not when the interest of my country is at stake," he added.
More than 400 people, mostly militants, have been killed and nearly 400,000 people have been displaced by the ongoing conflict. —ALG/KVD/KG, GMA News