Supreme Court: President has prerogative to place entire country under martial law

  • SC ruled that placing the entire country under martial law a prerogative of president
  • High tribunal said no rule exists limiting martial rule to scope and range of rebellion
  • It also said president mandated by Constitution to use martial law to ensure country’s survival

MANILA, Philippines  –  Describing his proclamation of martial law over Mindanao as part of his prerogative, the Supreme Court said President Rodrigo Duterte may even place the entire country under martial rule as there is no rule limiting such to the scope and range of the actual rebellion or invasion.

“The Constitution grants him the prerogative whether to put the entire country or parts thereof under martial law,” Associate Justice Mariano Castillo wrote in his 82-page majority decision. “There is no constitutional edict that martial law should be confined only in the particular place where the armed public uprising actually transpired.”

According to Castillo and the 10 other justices who agreed with him, the Constitution did not envision martial law to be used only in the actual places of conflict — otherwise, it would be an exercise in futility.

“In fine, it is difficult, if not impossible, to fix the territorial scope of martial law in direct proportion to the range of actual rebellion and public safety simply because rebellion and public safety have no fixed physical dimensions,” they said. “The Constitution must have considered these limitations when it granted the President wide leeway and flexibility in determining the territorial scope of martial law. Limiting the proclamation and/or suspension to the place where there is actual rebellion would not only defeat the purpose of declaring martial law, it will make the exercise thereof ineffective and useless.”

The justices also agreed that the president’s martial law powers resonates with this constitutional mandate to ensure the sovereignty and survival of the country.

“The President’s duty to maintain peace and public safety is not limited only to the place where there is actual rebellion; it extends to other areas where the present hostilities are in danger of spilling over,” they said.