Not even the Supreme Court (SC) can compel the House of Representatives and the Senate to convene in a joint session to discuss the merits or lack of them of martial law, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte said on Thursday.
Alvarez was responding to a move of at least 300 lawyers, led by former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, who filed a petition asking the SC to tell Congress to hold a joint session on the declaration of martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao because of terrorist attacks led by Islamic State ally Maute Group.
Under the 1987 Constitution, the President can declare martial law and suspend the writ of habeas corpus in case of invasion, rebellion or when public safety requires it.
It also provides, “Congress, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its members in regular or special session, may revoke such proclamation or suspension, which revocation shall not be set aside by the President” and that “Congress, if not in session, should, within twenty-four hours following such proclamation or suspension, convene in accordance with its rules without any need of a call.”
“How can the Supreme Court dictate [on]Congress what to do when it is our co-equal body? If the Supreme Court issues a ruling telling Congress to convene in such joint session, I will just tear that up,” Alvarez told reporters.
“We won’t comply with that [SC ruling]. That would be stupid. There will be a constitutional crisis, and it is not the fault of Congress. All we know is that we won’t follow what the Supreme Court says because they don’t have the right to dictate on what Congress should do,” he said.
Alvarez disclosed that the House already submitted a position paper to the Office of the Solicitor General to defend its stance against the joint session.
“My position is that the Supreme Court does not have a jurisdiction on this matter. Besides, I don’t see the logic in this. The Senate majority passed a resolution supporting the declaration of martial law. The House did the same thing. Why convene in a joint session when you already know the result?” he said.
“I don’t know, really. Maybe these critics just want to do a grandstanding in a joint session,” Alvarez added.
Aside from the Hilbay petition, opposition lawmakers led by Rep. Edcel Lagman also asked the Supreme Court to lift martial law in Mindanao.