See - G.R. No. 190293, G.R. No. 190294, G.R. No. 190301, G.R. No. 190302, G.R. No. 190307, G.R. No. 190356 and G.R. No. 190380
G.R. No. 190293 March 20, 2012
PHILIP SIGFRID A. FORTUN and ALBERT LEE G. ANGELES, Petitioners, vs. GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO, as Commander-in-Chief and President of the Republic of the Philippines, EDUARDO ERMITA, Executive Secretary, ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES (AFP), or any of their units, PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE (PNP), or any of their units, JOHN DOES and JANE DOES acting under their direction and control, Respondents.
"x x x.
These cases concern the constitutionality of a presidential proclamation of martial law and suspension of the privilege of habeas corpus in 2009 in a province in Mindanao which were withdrawn after just eight days.
x x x.
One. President Arroyo withdrew her proclamation of martial law and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus before the joint houses of Congress could fulfill their automatic duty to review and validate or invalidate the same. The pertinent provisions of Section 18, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution state:
Sec. 18. The President shall be the Commander‑in‑Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion. In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law. Within forty‑eight hours from the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of writ of habeas corpus, the President shall submit a report in person or in writing to the Congress. 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. Upon the initiative of the President, the Congress may, in the same manner, extend such proclamation or suspension for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.
The Congress, if not in session, shall, within twenty‑four hours following such proclamation or suspension, convene in accordance with its rules without any need of a call.
x x x x
Although the above vests in the President the power to proclaim martial law or suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, he shares such power with the Congress. Thus:
1. The President’s proclamation or suspension is temporary, good for only 60 days;
2. He must, within 48 hours of the proclamation or suspension, report his action in person or in writing to Congress;
3. Both houses of Congress, if not in session must jointly convene within 24 hours of the proclamation or suspension for the purpose of reviewing its validity; and
4. The Congress, voting jointly, may revoke or affirm the President’s proclamation or suspension, allow their limited effectivity to lapse, or extend the same if Congress deems warranted.
It is evident that under the 1987 Constitution the President and the Congress act in tandem in exercising the power to proclaim martial law or suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. They exercise the power, not only sequentially, but in a sense jointly since, after the President has initiated the proclamation or the suspension, only the Congress can maintain the same based on its own evaluation of the situation on the ground, a power that the President does not have.
Consequently, although the Constitution reserves to the Supreme Court the power to review the sufficiency of the factual basis of the proclamation or suspension in a proper suit, it is implicit that the Court must allow Congress to exercise its own review powers, which is automatic rather than initiated. Only when Congress defaults in its express duty to defend the Constitution through such review should the Supreme Court step in as its final rampart. The constitutional validity of the President’s proclamation of martial law or suspension of the writ of habeas corpus is first a political question in the hands of Congress before it becomes a justiciable one in the hands of the Court.
Here, President Arroyo withdrew Proclamation 1959 before the joint houses of Congress, which had in fact convened, could act on the same. Consequently, the petitions in these cases have become moot and the Court has nothing to review. The lifting of martial law and restoration of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Maguindanao was a supervening event that obliterated any justiciable controversy.2
Two. Since President Arroyo withdrew her proclamation of martial law and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in just eight days, they have not been meaningfully implemented. The military did not take over the operation and control of local government units in Maguindanao. The President did not issue any law or decree affecting Maguindanao that should ordinarily be enacted by Congress. No indiscriminate mass arrest had been reported. Those who were arrested during the period were either released or promptly charged in court. Indeed, no petition for habeas corpus had been filed with the Court respecting arrests made in those eight days. The point is that the President intended by her action to address an uprising in a relatively small and sparsely populated province. In her judgment, the rebellion was localized and swiftly disintegrated in the face of a determined and amply armed government presence.
In Lansang v. Garcia,3 the Court received evidence in executive session to determine if President Marcos’ suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in 1971 had sufficient factual basis. In Aquino, Jr. v. Enrile,4while the Court took judicial notice of the factual bases for President Marcos’ proclamation of martial law in 1972, it still held hearings on the petitions for habeas corpus to determine the constitutionality of the arrest and detention of the petitioners. Here, however, the Court has not bothered to examine the evidence upon which President Arroyo acted in issuing Proclamation 1959, precisely because it felt no need to, the proclamation having been withdrawn within a few days of its issuance.
Justice Antonio T. Carpio points out in his dissenting opinion the finding of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City that no probable cause exist that the accused before it committed rebellion in Maguindanao since the prosecution failed to establish the elements of the crime. But the Court cannot use such finding as basis for striking down the President’s proclamation and suspension. For, firstly, the Court did not delegate and could not delegate to the RTC of Quezon City its power to determine the factual basis for the presidential proclamation and suspension. Secondly, there is no showing that the RTC of Quezon City passed upon the same evidence that the President, as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, had in her possession when she issued the proclamation and suspension.
The Court does not resolve purely academic questions to satisfy scholarly interest, however intellectually challenging these are.5 This is especially true, said the Court in Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities v. Secretary of Education,6 where the issues "reach constitutional dimensions, for then there comes into play regard for the court’s duty to avoid decision of constitutional issues unless avoidance becomes evasion." The Court’s duty is to steer clear of declaring unconstitutional the acts of the Executive or the Legislative department, given the assumption that it carefully studied those acts and found them consistent with the fundamental law before taking them. "To doubt is to sustain."7
Notably, under Section 18, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution, the Court has only 30 days from the filing of an appropriate proceeding to review the sufficiency of the factual basis of the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. Thus –
The Supreme Court may review, in an appropriate proceeding filed by any citizen, the sufficiency of the factual basis of the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or the extension thereof, and must promulgate its decision thereon within thirty days from its filing. (Emphasis supplied)
More than two years have passed since petitioners filed the present actions to annul Proclamation 1959.1âwphi1 When the Court did not decide it then, it actually opted for a default as was its duty, the question having become moot and academic.
Justice Carpio of course points out that should the Court regard the powers of the President and Congress respecting the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus as sequential or joint, it would be impossible for the Court to exercise its power of review within the 30 days given it.
But those 30 days, fixed by the Constitution, should be enough for the Court to fulfill its duty without pre-empting congressional action. Section 18, Article VII, requires the President to report his actions to Congress, in person or in writing, within 48 hours of such proclamation or suspension. In turn, the Congress is required to convene without need of a call within 24 hours following the President’s proclamation or suspension. Clearly, the Constitution calls for quick action on the part of the Congress. Whatever form that action takes, therefore, should give the Court sufficient time to fulfill its own mandate to review the factual basis of the proclamation or suspension within 30 days of its issuance.
If the Congress procrastinates or altogether fails to fulfill its duty respecting the proclamation or suspension within the short time expected of it, then the Court can step in, hear the petitions challenging the President’s action, and ascertain if it has a factual basis. If the Court finds none, then it can annul the proclamation or the suspension. But what if the 30 days given it by the Constitution proves inadequate? Justice Carpio himself offers the answer in his dissent: that 30-day period does not operate to divest this Court of its jurisdiction over the case. The settled rule is that jurisdiction once acquired is not lost until the case has been terminated.
The problem in this case is that the President aborted the proclamation of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Maguindanao in just eight days. In a real sense, the proclamation and the suspension never took off. The Congress itself adjourned without touching the matter, it having become moot and academic.
x x x."