MANILA, Philippines — Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of the petitioners against the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, said that there was nothing confidential mentioned in the six-hour-long internal session held by the Supreme Court for military respondents.
“The personal assessment of Petitioner Lagman, who was allowed to attend the internal session and executive session of the Honorable Court, is that there was nothing confidential in the presentation that would affect national security or impair operational strategies,” an excerpt from the five-page memorandum filed by Lagman and other House minority members read.
During the final day of the oral arguments on the petitions last Thursday, the SC gave respondents Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Gen. Eduardo Año, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, time to present intelligence related to the Marawi crisis.
This was after Solicitor General Jose Calida requested for an executive session due to security risks. Executive sessions are held behind closed doors and revealing matters discussed there can carry penalties.
Only Calida and Lagman were allowed to attend the presentation of the military respondents along with the magistrates. Some of the petitioners opposed the executive session since some of them would be excluded.
Lagman and co-petitioners earlier opposed the executive session saying the two respondents should join the public oral arguments.
‘Presentation of intelligence information was complied’
Calida claimed that Lorenzana and Año managed to present the intelligence information that he said were “secret documents” different from the annexes attached to their comment. He said this was presented in a slideshow presentation and they were also able to answer questions from the justices.
However, Lagman disputed Calida’s claims saying nothing was divulged that may concern national security.
“Consequently, if said respondents fail or refuse to publicly disclose the facts and data covered by their presentation, it would mean that there is paucity in the sufficiency of facts they have presented as anchorage for the assailed declaration and suspension,” the petitioners’ memorandum read.
“Moreover, when a party conceals a fact, it is presumed that the same is against his interest. This is similar to Section 3(e) of Rule 131, which provides that ‘evidence willfully suppressed would be adverse if produced,'” it added.
SC Spokesperson Theodore Te last Thursday clarified that there is no executive session in the judicial body. However, he said, “there is a rule that allows the court to to exclude the public when, in the consideration of the Court, the information that will be disclosed may be prejudicial and detrimental.”
Lagman and petitioners Akbayan party-list Rep. Tomasito Villarin. Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano, Capiz Rep. Emmanuel Billones and Ifugao Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat Jr. had asked SC to nullify the Proclamation 216 or martial law in Mindanao due to insufficient factual basis. This prompted for the oral arguments into the petitions against Mindanao martial law.