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Philippines supreme court dismisses suits challenging martial law

The Supreme Court of the Philippines [official website] on Monday released its 9-6 decision dismissing seven suits filed against former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo [NYT backgrounder] that challenged the constitutionality of the declaration of martial law she made in 2009. The court also determined that the suits were rendered moot because Arroyo lifted [JURIST report] Proclamation No. 1959 [text] after eight days, thus preventing Congress from reviewing it. The majority opinion determined that Arroyo followed the applicable constitutional rules [Inquirer News report] when declaring martial law by informing Congress and submitting a report within 48 hours and the issue of whether the proclamation was itself constitutional need not be reached. Dissenting justices argued that the court should take this chance to develop the law in order to guide future presidents on the appropriate way to declare martial law. The majority opinion addressed this assertion by downplaying the effectiveness of any guidelines the court may have developed in this case. The declaration of martial law was lifted on December 12, 2009, when Arroyo issued Proclamation No. 1963 restoring writ of habeas corpus. Proclamation No. 1959 was issued [JURIST report] on December 4, 2009 because the government feared an uprising by allies to the Ampatuan family after the family was implicated in the killings of 57 people in Maguindanao.

Arroyo has recently been in the news after she pleaded not guilty to charges of electoral fraud in February [JURIST report]. Arroyo is accused of rigging senate elections in favor of the candidates she supported in 2007. Arroyo was formally charged in December with corruption and election fraud during her presidency. Arroyo also faces charges filed in a second criminal complaint [JURIST report] that she approved a $329-million national broadband network deal with the Chinese company ZTE Corporation [corporate website] in return for millions of dollars in kickbacks in 2008. If Arroyo is convicted she could face life in prison.

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