But for Solicitor General Jose Calida, Congress only has to convene in a joint session if it will revoke President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration
MARTIAL LAW. Solicitor General Jose Calida answers questions on martial law during the celebration of the 116th anniversary of the Office of the Solicitor General in Pasay City on June 8, 2017. Photo by Lian Buan/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – Solicitor General Jose Calida said on Thursday, June 8, that the Supreme Court (SC) should prevail on the issue of martial law, as it prepares to tackle 3 petitions regarding the declaration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
"If there’s an interpretation of the law, it is the Supreme Court that will prevail but also there are certain prerogatives of the other branches of government," Calida said on Thursday during the 116th anniversary celebration of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) in Pasay City.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier said the 17th Congress would ignore any SC ruling on martial law, saying the legislative branch cannot be dictated upon.
Responding to Alvarez’s remarks, Calida said: "There are 3 branches of the government – the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary. In each sphere they have this political prerogative. Like in the case of the President, nobody can tell him [not to] impose martial law."
As the government’s top lawyer, Calida was asked to come up with a legal scenario if the magistrates’ ruling clashes with the lawmakers’ stand.
"We will have to see. I’m not a prophet, that’s why I cannot tell you what will happen in the future," the Solicitor General said.
But he acknowledged that a constitutional crisis is likely.
Alvarez had been adamant about ignoring the SC, saying: "O, mag-issue ng direktiba ang Supreme Court telling Congress, dictating Congress na, ‘Uy, mag-convene kayo ng joint session.’ Punitin ko ‘yan."
(If the Supreme Court issues an order telling Congress to convene in a joint session, I’ll rip up that order.)
‘No need to convene now’
For Calida, Congress only has to convene in a joint session if it will revoke martial law.
"There’s no need right now, it’s already fait accompli. The sense of Congress is that it’s already supporting the proclamation of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of writ of habeas corpus," the Solicitor General said.
Section 18, Article VII of the Constitution states that: "The Congress, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its Members in regular or special session, may revoke such proclamation or suspension, which revocation shall not be set aside by the President."
The Senate and the House of Representatives, in separate resolutions, earlier expressed their support for Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
Two petitions, one filed by the group of detained Senator Leila de Lima and the other by the group of former senator Wigberto Tañada, have been filed before the SC, seeking to compel Congress to convene. Both petitions cite the Constitution as being clear that the Senate and the House must hold a joint session.
SC Spokesperson Theodore Te said on Thursday that the two petitions seeking to make Congress convene will likely be consolidated.
There is also a petition seeking to nullify Duterte’s declaration, filed by opposition lawmakers led by Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman. The SC set 3 straight days of oral arguments for that petition beginning June 13.
Calida said he is prepared to defend the martial law declaration, adding that it is clear the situation in Marawi City is invasion and rebellion, and therefore clear constitutional basis to declare martial law.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, in an earlier interview, warned of a constitutional crisis if there is a clash among the co-equal branches of government.
As lawyer and political analyst Tony La Viña explained, co-equal branches of government cannot tell each other what to do. The SC can declare that something is unconstitutional, but when the other branches "insist on doing something that’s unconstitutional," that’s when the problem begins. (READ: Duterte cannot ignore SC, Congress on martial law – senators) – Rappler.com