Proclamation No. 1959
On 4 December 2009, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Proclamation No. 1959 which (a) declared a state of martial law in the province of Maguindanao except for the identified areas of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as referred to in the Implementing Operational Guidelines of the GRP-MILF Agreement on the General Cessation of Hostilities; and (b) suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the said area for the duration of the state of martial law.
The said proclamation of martial law is the first since the 1972 declaration of martial law by then President Ferdinand E. Marcos, and the first under the 1987 Constitution.
Proclamation No. 1959 was issued on the strength of Article VII, Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution. Under this provision –
(a) The President, as Commander-in-Chief, has the power to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or to place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law, but only in case of invasion or rebellion, when public safety requires it;
(b) Within 48 hours from the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, the President must submit a report to Congress, in person or in writing.
(c) Congress has the power to revoke such proclamation or suspension, by a vote of at least a majority of all its members in regular or special session, voting jointly. The President cannot set aside the revocation.
If not in session, Congress should convene, without need of call, within 24 hours after such proclamation or suspension.
(d) The suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or proclamation of martial law should be for a period not exceeding 60 days. Congress may extend such suspension or proclamation –
i. upon the President’s initiative;
ii. if the invasion or rebellion should persist and public safety requires it;
iii. for a period it (Congress) shall determine;
iv. by a vote of at least a majority of all its members in regular or special session, voting jointly.
(e) The Supreme Court has the power to review the factual basis of such suspension or proclamation in an appropriate proceeding filed by any citizen. The Supreme Court must promulgate its decision within 30 days from its filing.
(f) The proclamation of martial law does not:
i. suspend the operation of the Constitution;
ii. supplant the functioning of civil courts or legislative assemblies;
iii. authorize the conferment of jurisdiction on military courts and agencies over civilians where civil courts are able to function; or
iv. automatically suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.
(g) The suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus applies only to persons judicially charged for rebellion or offenses inherent in or directly connected with invasion; and
(h) During the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, any person arrested or detained should be charged within 3 days, otherwise he should be released.
Grounds for the Proclamation
The President justified Proclamation No. 1959 on the ground of rebellion in Maguindanao. The President maintains that public safety required placing the said province under martial law.
Article 134 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 6968, defines “rebellion” as a crime “committed by rising and taking arms against the Government for the purpose of removing from the allegiance to said Government or its laws, the territory of the Republic of the Philippines or any part thereof, of any body of land, naval or other armed forces, or depriving the Chief Executive or the Legislature, wholly or partially, of any of their powers or prerogatives.
In Proclamation No. 1959, the President asserted that “heavily armed groups in the province of Maguindanao have established positions to resist government troops, thereby depriving the Executive of its powers and prerogatives to enforce the laws of the land and to maintain public order and safety.” She added that “the condition of peace and order in the province of Maguindanao has deteriorated to the extent that the local judicial system and other government mechanisms in the province are not functioning, thus endangering public safety.”
The President’s Report to Congress on Proclamation No. 1959, submitted on 6 December 2009, states that following the capture of Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr., whom several witnesses identified as the leader of the 100 armed men who carried out the Maguindanao massacre which claimed 57 lives, “(t)he Ampatuan group backed by formidable group of armed followers, have used their strength and political position to deprive the Chief Executive of her power to enforce the law and to maintain public order and safety, and “a separatist group based in Maguindanao has joined forces with the Ampatuans for this purpose.” The Report further states that –
(a) Duly verified information disclosed that the Ampatuan group is behind the closing of local government offices in Maguindanao, the refusal of local government officials to discharge their functions (including the refusal of the local civil registrar to accept the registration of the death certificates of the massacre victims), and the absence or non-appearance of judges in local courts;
(b) It has been confirmed that “the Ampatuan group has consolidated a group of rebels consisting of 2,413 heavily armed men, with 1,160 of them having been strategically deployed in Maguindanao;”
(c) “The existence of this armed rebellion is further highlighted by the recent recovery of high powered firearms and ammunitions from the 400 security escorts of Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr.;” and
(d) “Armored cars, tanks and patrol cars bearing ‘PNP/Police’ markings that do not belong to the duly constituted government were further recovered from a bodega owned by Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr. located in x x Maguindanao.”
On 8 December 2009, the President submitted to Congress an Amendment to the Report on Proclamation No. 1959. The President sought to clarify the word “separatist” as used in her earlier Report when she stated that a separatist group based in Maguindanao has joined forces with the Ampatuans to deprive the Chief Executive of the power to enforce the law. According to the President, the word “separatist” must be taken “within the context of the entire Report vis-à-vis the on-going rebellion x x referring to the group that has for its purpose the removal from the allegiance to the Government or its laws, the territory of the Republic of the Philippine or any part thereof, of any body of land, naval or other armed forces, or depriving the Chief Executive, wholly or partially, of any of her powers or prerogatives.” “(I)n the interest of accuracy and to prevent any misunderstanding of the word “separatist,” the President sought to delete the said statement from the Report.
Petitions to Nullify Proclamation No. 1959
5 Petitions questioning Proclamation No. 1959 were filed separately before the Supreme Court by: (a) the lawyers for the Ampatuans; (b) Maguindanao Representative Didagen Dilangalen; (c) the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) and militant groups; (d) law student Joseph Nelson Loyola; and (e) former Senate President Jovito Salonga, University of the Philippines professor Raul Pangalangan, and lawyers Gilbert Andres, Romel Bagares, Joel Butuyan, Emilio Capulong, Dexter Donne Dizon, Florin Hilbay, Allan Jones Lardizabal and Harry Roque Jr.
The respondents include President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, acting Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Victor Ibrado and Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa.
The petitioners argued that there was no factual basis for the Proclamation as there was no actual invasion or rebellion. They asked the High Court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the implementation of Proclamation No. 1959.
The Supreme Court gave the respondents 5 days to submit their comment on the Petitions.
On 9 December 2009, Congress convened a joint session to determine whether or not it would revoke Proclamation No. 1959. The Executive Department was represented at the joint session by, among others, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Victor Ibrado, and Department of Justice Secretary Agnes Devenadera, who replied to questions propounded by members of Congress.
The joint session was scheduled to resume at 2:00PM on 10 December 2009.