Supreme Court dismisses petitions ordering Congress to convene for martial law discussion

  • SC junked petitions to compel to Congress to convene and discuss martial law proclamation
  • High tribunal said Congress only needs to convene to revoke or extend martial law
  • Former solicitor general dismayed with result, called it strange and unfortunate

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court has unanimously junked the consolidated petitions ordering Congress to convene and discuss the president’s initial declaration of martial law, saying they were not obliged by the Constitution to do so.

“The court, voting unanimously, dismissed the petitions on the ground that Congress did not gravely abuse its discretion in not convening jointly upon the President’s issuance of Proclamation 216 as Article VII Section 18 imposes no such duty on Congress to convene,” the Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted SC spokesperson Theodore Te as saying.

All 15 justices voted to dismiss the petitions —with 13 agreeing with the main decision penned by Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo De Castro. The two others — Associate Justices Benjamin Caguioa and Marvic Leonen — voted against the petitions on the ground they became moot and academic.

Quoting De Castro, Te said Congress only needs to convene on instances where it “intends to revoke or extend any proclamation of martial law or suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.”

Former solicitor general Florin Hilbay, counsel of the petitioners, called the ruling “strange and unfortunate”; saying a joint session at the onset of martial law is just as important as the one to extend or revoke it.

“Clearly, joint public deliberation is just as, if not even more, important when a president initially declares martial law as when he extends it,” he said. The Court’s decision is a step away from transparency and accountability, a path that Congress had already taken when it extended martial law.