President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of martial law in Mindanao amid atrocities committed against soldiers and civilians might be seen as playing into the hands of terrorists, a Supreme Court magistrate said on Tuesday.
Associate Justice Marvic Leonen made the remark during his interpellation of lawyer Marlon Manuel as the high tribunal heard oral arguments on martial law.
Manuel represented a group of four female residents of Marawi City, the center of ongoing skirmishes between government troops and the Maute local terror group.
“Therefore, just because we see gory details on television, just because we know that atrocities can be committed by barbaric individuals, [it] does not necessarily mean that we should impose the hardest, harshest solution possible,” Leonen said.
“There are requirements in the law and there are requirements brought about by pragmatism. Because if we do that, we are playing in the hands of modern-day terrorists that use social media and want to elevate themselves to stature that the world can see through social media and the media,” he added.
Leonen said the “sacrifices” and “heroism” of members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the fight against the Maute group, as well as civilians who have helped in evacuating and assisting the residents after they fled their homes.
He said the “efforts of an entire people of Mindanao,” as well as the “atrocities,” including the sights and news of fatalities, “can touch the emotions.”
He noted the danger of letting emotions rule over in such situations.
“And when emotions run roughshod over logic, reason, and law, then we can make wrong decisions. And therefore, it is the function of statespersons to be able to look at emotions, with the luxury of our reason and logic, to examine the situation carefully because it is possible that the cure can be worse than the disease,” he said.
‘I don’t know why we’re so worried’
For his part, Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo said he didn't know “why we’re so worried” about the martial law declaration in Mindanao, given the safeguards provided by the 1987 Constitution.
Del Castillo raised this during his interpellation of Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, who leads the group of opposition lawmakers questioning the President’s proclamation.
“The military casualty as of Sunday is already 58 soldiers, Congressman, dead soldiers of ours. And there are 35,000 evacuees that are now in Iligan city. So for you, the situation is still not serious for martial law to [be declared]?” he said.
“I mean, martial law will only be with us for 60 days, assuming that he won’t lift the proclamation earlier. With all the safeguards… I don’t know why we’re so worried, eh,” he added.
‘Constitution stands amid emergencies’
Meanwhile, Leonen also underscored that “all officials of this government” are bound by the Constitution.
In his interpellation, the Supreme Court justice said the Constitution “is one of the factors that keep our country cohesive and coherent.”
“[T]he Constitution is supposed to operate not only at the time it was drafted, in 1987, but also it has to operate and become relevant in situations that have emerged since then, and therefore it has to apply in the present,” Leonen said.
He added, to which Manuel agreed, that the Constitution “is a law that we should recognize” in cases of emergency in the country.
“Therefore, if we do not agree with any of its provisions because of an interpretation, which may not be the interpretation of the court, it cannot simply be thrown or torn… torn or thrown away,” he said.
“And therefore, definitely, for all officials of this government, they have to consider that the members of this Court are reasonable individuals that know what is at stake whenever there is a case that is brought to them … And it is dangerous to predict what this court will do simply because, I don’t know, there may be indicators or speculation as to how we will decide,” he added. —GMA News