Duterte suspends privilege of writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 24) — President Rodrigo Duterte said on May 24 that he is allowing warrantless arrests for those connected to the rebellion in Mindanao.

This comes a day after he declared martial law there following clashes between government forces and the Maute group in Marawi City.

Read: Duterte declares martial law in Mindanao

The fighting has resulted in six dead and caused hundreds of residents to flee to nearby cities.

Read: Residents flee Marawi City amid clashes

"By virtue of the powers vested in me by the Constitution and by law, I had to declare martial law in the Mindanao group of islands for a period not exceeding 60 days effective as of May 23, 2017," he said in a prepared speech after arriving from his official visit to Russia.

 

"The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is likewise suspended in the aforesaid area for the duration of martial law," he added.

Duterte also said he may extend the coverage of the suspension of privilege of the writ of habeas corpus to include the Visayas.

 

In English, the Latin phrase habeas corpus means "that you have the body."

When the Supreme Court — which has jurisdiction over habeas corpus petitions — issues the writ, it commands an individual or a government official who has restrained another individual to produce the prisoner at a designated time and place so that the Court can determine whether the prisoner's custody is legal or not.

 

If his or her custody is not legal, then the prisoner must be released. In other words, the writ is a safeguard against warrantless arrests and illegal detention.

Like with declaring martial law, the 1987 Constitution states that the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus may only be suspended for up to 60 days in cases of invasion or rebellion and when public safety requires it.

Within 48 hours of suspending the privilege, the President must submit "a report in person or in writing to the Congress," which may revoke or extend the suspension following a majority vote of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. In case of a revocation, the President must comply.      

In addition, the Supreme Court may, upon the filing of any citizen, review the suspension of the privilege and must promulgate its decision on it within 30 days from the filing.

Related: EXCLUSIVE: Muslim lawyers to challenge martial law declaration before Supreme Court

The Constitution makes very clear that the suspension of the privilege "shall apply only to persons judicially charged for rebellion or offenses inherent in or directly connected with the invasion" and that any person arrested or detained while the privilege is suspended must be charged within three days or else he or she will be released.

In addition, the Constitution states that the right to bail shall remain even when the privilege is suspended.

The first suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus after the American occupation was in 1950, when President Elpidio Quirino issued Proclamation No. 210 to help in the fight against Communist rebels.

In 1971, President Ferdinand Marcos also suspended the privilege through Proclamation No. 889 in response to the threat of Communist rebels and to the Plaza Miranda bombing.

Most recently, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo suspended the privilege in Maguindanao in 2009 through Proclamation No. 1959 following the Maguindanao Massacre.

(Story updated 1 p.m. of May 25 to include video on the writ of habeas corpus.)