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    Monday, June 19, 2017

    Political Analyst: SC Justices commit judicial overreach?

    “The job of the court is to determine whether the President exercised prudence in appreciating the facts that led him to proclaim martial law. Anything beyond that is judicial overreach.”


    That’s how Antonio P. Contreras, a political analyst and a full time professor at De La Salle University, concluded his online article.

    Drawing the line between the powers of three equally powerful branches of the government, particularly on the martial law issue, Contreras claimed that the Supreme Court, specifically some of its notable justices had committed “judicial overreach”.

    “Section 18 of Article VII of the Constitution stipulates that the President, as Commander in Chief, can call the armed forces when there is a threat of rebellion or invasion. It is only in actual rebellion or invasion, or when lawless violence is so pervasive, that the President can declare martial law, and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus,” wrote Professor Antonio Contreras, citing  a provision in the Constitution.

    He also added that despite this:”..the power of the President is not absolute, for it can be revoked by Congress which shall remain open. The Supreme Court which shall remain functional can come in to declare the factual basis of the proclamation as insufficient.”

    “But what exactly is the power of the Supreme Court?”

    Providing answers to his own question, Professor Contreras started to elaborate on the duties of the judiciary branch with regards to the president’s declaration of martial law. Claiming that the Supreme Court’s task is “misaligned” Contreras wrote that:

    “The Supreme Court, however, is given a task that is totally misaligned with its very nature as a court that decides on matters of law. One has to dig deep into logic to comprehend how the sufficiency of the factual basis of a martial law proclamation can be a question of law.”

    Citing how the SC had previously ruled that it should restrict itself from “dwelling” on the veracity of the Chief Executive’s decision, whatever it may be. 


    The rule posits that SC should only focus on whether or not the president acted “arbitrarily” on making such impositions. “Here alone, one can see that even the court has realized that it is not in a position to investigate facts,” Contreras claimed.

    This, however, according to Contreras had not stopped certain justices from “going beyond the limits” of the powers of the court. By mentioning two prominent justices as examples, Contreras claimed that some justices “ventured into speculations on the correctness of the imposition of martial law” which should not be the case.

    “Associate Justice Leonen argued that declaring martial law is an admission of failure of governance…He also delved into the operational aspects of martial law, even to the point of asking for something like an IRR to govern a martial law proclamation, as if martial law is just any other piece of legislation."

    "[While] Associate Justice Carpio kept emphasizing that rebellion is different from terrorism. Justice Carpio further averred that at present, martial law may have been warranted, but must only be limited to Marawi City,” Contreras further wrote.

    Criticizing the statements given by the two abovementioned justices, Contreras again emphasized that such remarks do not align to their duties as part of the judiciary. 

    “With all due respect to Justices Carpio and Leonen, the determination of when a rebellion starts, or what activities are considered part of it to merit the inclusion of a place under the proclamation of martial law, is not a justiciable issue, but a technical and operational one,” Contreras concluded.


    Considering such speculative remarks given by Leonen and Carpio, which goes beyond their duties as members of the judiciary, Contreras implicitly implied that indeed, the two Supreme Court justices had committed “judicial overreach”.



    Source: Antonio P. Contreras | Manila Times
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