Chief Justice: Accuracy of violence reports to justify martial law ‘irrelevant’

By AC Nicholls, CNN Philippines

Supreme Court Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin defended the high court’s decision upholding the third extension of martial law in Mindanao, deferring to the President’s prerogative to assess and act based on what he knows.

“Whether that information is true or not is irrelevant. If there was false information and the President did not know it but nonetheless acted upon it, the theory is, it is still within the competence of the President to make a decision on that,” Bersamin told reporters Thursday.

Bersamin said the full court found sufficient factual basis for the extension.

“When you note some inconsistencies or weaknesses, that is not sufficient to undo the determination of the president because accuracy is not the question here. The question here is what is the information the president acted upon,” he added.

Under the Constitution, the Supreme Court may review “the sufficiency of the factual basis of the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ or the extension thereof.”

The justices voted 9-4 on Tuesday in favor of upholding military rule in Mindanao until December 31 this year.

Lawmakers and some residents of Mindanao argued that martial law should be lifted since the Marawi siege which prompted the declaration in May 2017 has ended, with the defeat of terrorists led by the ISIS-linked Maute group. The court, however, junked their petitions against martial law.

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