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Ex-SC justice says martial law justified and needed

By: Marlon Ramos - Reporter / @MRamos INQPhilippine Daily Inquirer / 12:48 AM May 25, 2017

President Duterte’s decision to impose martial law in the entire Mindanao was “justified and needed” following the hostilities between government forces and the Maute group in Marawi City, according to a former Supreme Court magistrate.

Retired Associate Justice Vicente Mendoza also maintained that the government could not be accused of violating the Bill of Rights during the duration of martial law.

“You cannot speak of violation of the Bill of Rights when there’s martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is effective,” Mendoza said.

“You cannot speak of that because you have to look at it from the military’s point of view,” he explained. “If you’re the military, will you go to the court to get a warrant? No more. You will just arrest suspected rebels.”

He said the initial information provided by authorities showed that there was “really a need” to place Mindanao under military rule and to temporarily revoke the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

“Based on what I have heard, I think there’s rebellion over there … in Marawi and that public safety really requires the declaration of martial law,” Mendoza said.

“If the President’s judgment is correct or not in declaring martial law, it’s not for me nor for anyone (to decide). That is the prerogative of the President.”

Mendoza, who served as magistrate of the 15-member Supreme Court  from 1994 to 2002, said the presumption was that the President “acted correctly” in exercising his authority.

“If anyone wants to challenge that, (he or she) has to challenge that in the court,” he said.

The retired justice said the government may also carry out warrantless arrests even without suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

However, Mendoza said the state could not prevent the court from  scrutinizing the legality of warrantless arrests.

“That’s the difference,” he noted. “If the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is suspended, the court will not entertain you. Your petition will be dismissed at once.”

“If the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is suspended, you cannot hold public meetings and speak against the government. Complete silence,” Mendoza said.

“You cannot travel to the area where there’s fighting. Freedom of movement can also be suspended in places which the military determines (as unsafe),” he said.

Pacifico Agabin, a former law dean of the University of the Philippines, agreed that the government may also restrict the people’s right to travel and the freedom of assembly while martial law was in effect.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) expressed its support for the President’s decision.

“(T)he national leadership of the IBP sees no reason to question the declaration at this time,” the lawyers’ group said in a statement.


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