Palace welcomes SC ruling junking plea to compel Duterte to defend PH territory

Robie de Guzman   •   November 24, 2021   •   311

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Wednesday welcomed the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) to dismiss the petition to compel President Rodrigo Duterte to defend the Philippine territory against China’s claims and incursions in the West Philippine Sea.

“We welcome the decision of the Supreme Court dismissing the petition for mandamus filed against President Rodrigo Roa Duterte,” acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles said in a statement.

Nograles was referring to an SC ruling dated June 29 but only uploaded on its website on November 22.

In a unanimous decision, the SC en banc dismissed the petition for mandamus filed by lawyer Romeo Esmero for “utter lack of merit.”

In his petition, Esmero claimed that it is the president’s ministerial duty to defend the national territory, which includes the West Philippine Sea as established by the UN Arbitral Tribunal.

He also asserted that “there is unlawful neglect or inaction by the president in the performance of his constitutional duty resulting to the detriment of ‘paramount public interest involve (sic) the livelihood of all of our poor Filipino fishermen and their families who are living in the coastal areas of the many islands facing the West Philippine Sea.’”

Esmero also suggested suing China before the International Criminal Court “to demand payment and damages for taking the Kalayaan Islands.”

“Our ruling in De Lima v. Duterte is clear: the president is immune from suit during his incumbency, regardless of the nature of the suit filed against him. Petitioner named President Duterte as the sole respondent in this case. For this reason, this suit should be dismissed outright,” the SC said.

The high court also noted that the petition for the issuance of a writ of mandamus “would still not lie in petitioner’s favor.”

A mandamus petition seeks to compel action and performance of a pre-existing duty, a ministerial function on the part of a board, officer or person, provided that the petitioner has a well-defined and clear right warrant the grant thereof.

“Indeed, the president is the guardian of the Philippine archipelago, including all the islands and waters embraced therein and all other territories over which it has sovereignty or jurisdiction. By constitutional fiat and the intrinsic nature of his office, the president is also the sole organ and the authority in the external affairs of the country,” the ruling read.

The SC said that for all the petitioner’s posturing, he failed to point any law that specifically requires the president to go to the UN or the ICJ to sue China for its incursions into the Philippine exclusive economic zone.

“Neither has he shown a clear and unmistakable constitutional or statutory provision which prescribes how the president is to respond to any threat (actual or imminent) from another State to our sovereignty or exercise of our sovereign rights,” the court said.

The SC said that former President Benigno S. Aquino was under no obligation to file a case against China through the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 2013.

“Taking China to binding arbitration was risky, as it could potentially damage relations with a major trading partner. On July 12, 2016, the arbitral tribunal issued an award overwhelmingly in favor of claims by the Philippines and ultimately bringing some clarity to the overlapping claims in the area,” the court noted.

The SC said that if President Duterte now sees fit to take a different approach with China despite said ruling, “this does not by itself mean that he has, as petitioner suggests, unlawfully abdicated his duty to protect and defend our national territory, correctible with the issuance by this Court of the extraordinary writ of mandamus.”

“Being the Head of State, he is free to use his own discretion in this matter, accountable only to his country in his political character and to his own conscience,” the SC added.

The 9-page ruling was penned by Associate Justice Rodil Zalameda. All 13 other justices concurred with the decision.

With this ruling, Malacañang said that the “executive power, indeed, rests on the President, including the peaceful and stable conduct of foreign affairs. Matters within the President’s discretion cannot be compelled by mandamus.”

The Palace also maintained that the president is the chief architect of foreign policy and this is affirmed by the latest decision of the High Court.

“Having said this, the president has firmly kept his position to continue the peaceful resolution of disputes,” Malacañang said.

 

Supreme Court issues TRO vs COMELEC’s decision to cancel Senate bet’s COC

Robie de Guzman   •   January 20, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) has issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the Commission on Election’s (COMELEC) decision to declare as a nuisance and cancel the certificate of candidacy of a senatorial aspirant.

In a document posted by the SC Public Information Office on Twitter, the high court granted the petition of Norman Cordero Marquez, assailing the poll body’s decision to cancel his candidacy for the May 2022 elections.

The SC said the petition appears to be sufficient in form and substance.

Considering the allegations contained, the issues raised and the arguments adduced in the petition, the court said it has required the COMELEC to comment on the petition within a non-extendible period of 10 days from notice.

“Now, therefore, respondent COMELEC is hereby required to comment on the petition within a non-extendible period of 10 days from notice hereof,” the document read.

“Meanwhile, a temporary restraining order is issued, effective immediately and continuing until further orders this court,” it added.

PH’s first 2 Omicron deaths were unvaccinated elderlies with co-morbidities – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   January 19, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has reported two fatalities linked to the COVID-19 Omicron variant, the Department of Health (DOH) said.

The DOH said the two death cases were “aged more than 60 years, unvaccinated, and had pre-existing medical conditions.”

“Both were detected during the latest whole genome sequencing,” the agency said in a message to reporters.

The two patients were from Metro Manila and Central Luzon.

These are the first reported fatalities among those infected with Omicron in the country, it added.

The DOH stressed that while the Omicron variant mostly presents with asymptomatic and mild disease, data showed that the elderly, those with comorbidities, and unvaccinated are still most at risk for fatalities.

The health department also reported that 492 more Omicron cases have been detected in the Philippines based on the latest whole genome sequencing involving 714 samples.

The newly reported Omicron cases are composed of 332 local cases and 160 returning overseas Filipinos.

The indicated addresses of the said cases were from the following areas:

  • National Capital Region with 227 cases
  • CALABARZON with 76 cases
  • Central Luzon with 11 cases
  • Central Visayas with 5 cases
  • Cagayan Valley with 2 cases
  • Western Visayas, with 2 cases
  • Davao Region with 2 cases
  • Soccsksargen with 2 cases
  • Cordillera Administrative Region with 2 cases
  • Ilocos Region with 1 case
  • MIMAROPA with 1 case
  • Bangsamoro region with 1 case

The DOH said that based on the case line list, three cases are still active, 467 cases have been tagged as recovered, while there are 20 cases whose outcomes are still being verified.

This brings the total number of confirmed Omicron variant cases in the country to 535.

PHL logs 22,958 new COVID-19 infections

Robie de Guzman   •   January 19, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines on Wednesday recorded 22,958 additional COVID-19 infections, the Department of Health (DOH) said.

In its latest data, the DOH said 21,691 of the new cases occurred within the recent 14 days, from January 6 to January 19.

The top regions that reported high cases in the last two weeks are the National Capital Region, CALABARZON, and Central Luzon.

The latest tally pushed the country’s number of active infections to 270,728. Of these cases, 8,335 are asymptomatic, 257,632 are mild, 2,970 are moderate, 1,487 are severe, and 304 are in critical condition.

The positivity rate was at 43.5 percent, based on samples of 62,531 individuals on January 17.

Six laboratories failed to submit their data on time. These facilities contribute on average 1.5 percent of samples tested and 1.9 percent of positive cases.

Recoveries increased by 36,611, resulting in 2,969,853 total recuperations.

COVID-related deaths rose to 53,044 with 82 new fatalities.

The utilization rate of intensive care unit beds nationwide was at 49 percent, and 53 percent in Metro Manila; isolation beds in the capital region at 48 percent, and 51 percent across the country.

In Metro Manila, 29 percent of ventilators are in use, and 23 percent nationwide.

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