Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 8 July 2017


Abdication. As when Prince Edward VIII abdicated his throne (as king of the United Kingdom and its dominions, and emperor of India) for love of the American divorcee Wallis Simpson.

That’s what the Supreme Court did in its recent decision on President Duterte’s martial law. “Abdication” is the term that my husband, Christian Monsod, a framer of the 1987 Constitution, used when he described that decision, and I am in complete agreement with him.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio also used the term, except that he modified it with the word “abject.” Wrote Carpio in his dissent: “Justices of the Court took an oath to preserve and defend the Constitution. Their oath of office does not state that they must trust the President when he declares martial law or suspends the privilege of the writ. On the contrary, paragraph 3, Section 18, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution expressly authorizes and specifically tasks the Court to review the judgment of the President as one of the two checking mechanisms on the President’s power to declare martial law or suspend the privilege of the writ. The 1987 Constitution would not have entrusted this specific review power to the Court if it intended the Justices to simply trust the judgment or wisdom of the President. Such obeisance to the President by the Court is an abject abdication of a solemn duty imposed by the Constitution.” (emphasis mine)

Notice that Justice Carpio does not specifically allude to this particular set of justices (I shall call them the Obeisant Eleven). Nevertheless, his description as quoted, fits them to a T. Reader, in case you’ve forgotten, obeisance means “treating with deferential respect.” It is a nicer word than sipsip, which means the same thing.

It is a pity that so few Filipinos will find the time to read these decisions, but if you have the time, Reader, you should read, the ponencia (I hope you have a strong stomach), and the dissents of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Justice Carpio, and Justice Marvic Leonen. As far as I am concerned, the three are the most outstanding members of the group in terms of intelligence and integrity.

Chief Justice Sereno laid down an analytical framework and, using it, found that the declaration of martial law was constitutional insofar as Lanao del Sur (where Marawi is), Maguindanao and Sulu are concerned.

Justice Carpio opined that the declaration of martial law was constitutional for Marawi (his basis was probable cause), but certainly not in all of Mindanao. And he quoted President Duterte to emphasize his point: Mr. Duterte had said that he declared a Mindanao-wide martial law to prevent a “spillover.” Which means that there is no actual rebellion outside of Marawi.

Justice Leonen thought that not even in Marawi was martial law justified. He averred that declaring Proclamation No. 216 (which proclaimed martial law in the whole of Mindanao) as unconstitutional would have no effect on the ongoing military operations in Marawi or in other parts of the country, including Mindanao, nor on Proclamation No. 55 (earlier issued by Mr. Duterte in announcing a state of national emergency, which allows him to call out all armed forces).

In Justice Leonen’s opinion, the Mautes are not rebels “desirous of a viable political alternative than can be accepted by any of our societies,” but are merely terrorists capable of committing atrocious acts. In other words, martial law is not justified.

Said Leonen: “History teaches us that to rely on the iron fist of an authoritarian backed up by the police and the military to solve our deep-seated social problems that spawn terrorism is fallacy… Never again should this court allow itself to step aside when the powerful invoke vague powers that feed on fear but could potentially undermine our most cherished rights. Never again should we fall victim to a false narrative that a vague declaration of martial law is good for us no matter the circumstances. We should have the courage to never again clothe authoritarianism in any disguise with the mantle of constitutionality.”

Amen. Alas, these great words have obviously fallen on deaf ears. On the other hand, what can we have expected from a court that allowed Marcos’ burial as a hero?