SC voids state of emergency in Sulu

Posted at 07/18/2012 6:06 PM | Updated as of 07/19/2012 8:33 PM

MANILA - The Supreme Court (SC) has nullified the proclamation of a state of emergency in the southern province of Sulu in 2009 during the time of the kidnapping of 3 members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

In a 25-page en banc decision penned by Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno dated July 3 but released to the media only today, the high court ruled that only the President of the Republic of the Philippines is vested with emergency powers and, as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and leader of the Philippine National Police (PNP), call out the military and state security forces to respond to a state of emergency, local or otherwise.

The high court granted petitioners Jamar Kulayan, Temogen Tulawie, Hji. Moh. Yusop Ismi, Julhajan Awadi, and special police officer (SPO) 1 Sattal Jadjuli's plea to declare null and void Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan's Proclamation No. 1 declaring a state of emergency in the province, ruling that the proclamation was declared "in grave abuse of discretion."

On Jan. 15, 2009, ICRC volunteers Andreas Notter, a Swiss national and head of the ICRC based on Zamboanga City, Eugenio Vagni, an Italian national, and Marie Jean Lacaba, a Filipino engineer, were seized by armed men belonging to the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). The ASG demanded money for the release of the captives for "board and lodging" expenses. All 3 captives were later freed by the bandit group.

"[I]t has already been established that there is one repository of executive powers, and that is the President of the Republic... Corollarily, it is only the President, as Executive, who is authorized to exercise emergency powers as provided under Sec. 23., Art. VI, of the Constitution, as well as what became known as the calling-out powers under Sec. 7, Art. VII thereof," the high court said.

The high court pointed out that "the exceptional character of commander-in-chief powers dictate that they are exercised by one President."

Tan described the ICRC kidnapping incident as "terrorist act" in declaring Proclamation No. 1 pursuant to Republic Act (RA) No. 9372 (Human Security Act). He also cited Sec. 465 of RA No. 7160 (Local Government Code of 1991) "which bestows on the Provincial Governor the power to carry out emergency measures during man-made and natural disasters and calamities, and to call upon the appropriate national law enforcement agencies to suppress disorder and lawless violence."

Tan called upon the PNP and the Civilian Emergency Force (CEF) to conduct arrests and general searches, set up checkpoints, and other actions "necessary to ensure public safety." A set of guidelines was also released for the implementation of the proclamation.

The high court, in its ruling, held that there are certain acts that may be performed only by the President as head of state. The high court added that the power to call upon the military is discretionary on the part of the President.

"[T]he calling-out powers, which is of lesser gravity than the power to declare martial law, is bestowed upon the President alone," the high court said.

A local chief executive, in this case, the governor, exercises merely "operational supervision" over the PNP "and may exercise control only in day-to-day operations," the ruling stated.

"[R]espondent provincial governor is not endowed with the power to call upon the armed forces at his own bidding. In issuing the assailed proclamation, Gov. Tan exceeded his authority when he declared a state of emergency and called upon the armed forces, the police, and his own Civilian Emergency Force," the high court said.

The proclamation has not been lifted to date.

Tan and co-respondents Lt. Gen. Juancho Saban, Brig. Gen. Eugenio Clemen, P/Supt. Julasirim Kasim (deceased, died in the line of duty) and P/Supt. Bienvenido Latag were ordered to desist from further implementing the subject proclamation.

Speaking to ABS-CBN News, Tan said that with the high court ruling, "there will be no need to lift the proclamation."