President Rodrigo Duterte has called on the Senate and the House of Representatives to convene in joint session on Saturday, July 22, to consider the extension of military rule over Mindanao beyond the 60-day constitutional limit that expires on that day.
House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas made the announcement Monday night, after Malacañang said the President was set to announce his decision on whether or not to extend the martial law declaration.
The joint session will open at 9 a.m. on Saturday, two days before the President’s second State of the Nation Address, Fariñas said.
“It will be a joint session as required by the Constitution for Congress to consider the initiative of the President to extend martial law,” Fariñas told reporters.
Anticipating that the pro-Duterte congressional majority will approve the extension, Ifugao Rep. Teodoro Baguilat said the joint session should be held earlier and that there should be “adequate discussion.”
Baguilat said military rule should only be imposed in Marawi City where fighting between the military and terrorists broke out in May, or in the province of Lanao del Sur.
“There should be time for us to be apprised by the [military]or Malacañang of the situation in Marawi and the entire island of Mindanao before we even consider an extension,” he said.
The entire Mindanao group of islands has been under martial rule since May 23 following the attack on Marawi City by the Islamic State-linked Maute group.
The basis of the martial law declaration under Proclamation 216 was challenged before the Supreme Court, but the high tribunal upheld its constitutionality in a majority decision last July 4.
Under the 1987 Constitution, the President can declare martial law in case of rebellion, invasion or when the public safety requires it, for up to 60 days. The President may ask Congress to extend it, however.
The Constitution gives Congress the power to revoke a martial law declaration in a joint vote, which cannot be set aside by the President.
But after the May 23 imposition of military rule, the House and the Senate decided not to convene a joint session and instead adopted resolutions supporting the President’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
As of July 17, the death toll in the Marawi crisis has reached 540, with at least 405 terrorists, 97 soldiers and 45 civilians killed.
Lorenzana submits recommendation
In Malacañang, Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana submitted his recommendation to the President on martial law last week.
“The Department of National Defense has submitted its recommendation on martial law to the President, as of last Thursday, July 13. The President will go through [it]and will make a decision on the matter,” Abella said during the “Mindanao Hour” news briefing.
“As we all know, the President listens and he considers the position, not only of the military and of the police but also the interest of vital stakeholders,” he added.
Asked when Duterte will make his decision, Abella said: “It should be on or before that (the end of the 60-day period).”
But the Palace official declined to disclose additional details so as not to “preempt” any announcement.
Abella said Duterte would decide on his next step based on public interest.
“Of course, it would be the threat to public safety, especially in concerned areas,” he said.
The President later told reporters he had yet to review Lorenzana’s recommendation, and that he would meet Lorenzana and military chief of staff Eduardo Año.
“Basta maghintay na lang sila diyan [Let them wait],” Duterte said.
House to back extension
The House of Representatives is likely to support the extension of martial law and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, allowing warrantless arrests, in Mindanao, a congressional leader said Monday.
“Lawmakers will be out there to support the President’s request for extension of the proclamation of martial law.
We just have to look at our Constitution. While clashes have gone down in Marawi, it doesn’t mean that the declaration of martial law already achieved its purpose,” Rep. Fredenil Castro of Capiz, a deputy speaker, told reporters.
Castro said the “tentacles of rebellion have to be dismantled, lawlessness has to be stopped and peace and order have to be restored.”
“If the end goal of declaring martial law is yet to be accomplished, I don’t see any reason why would the House or the Senate withhold a support for extension,” Castro, a lawyer, argued.
“When we speak of martial law, you do not declare martial law only within the territory where there is an actual shooting or there is an actual hostilities, but you will have to cover all territories which may possibly support the ongoing hostilities in one territory,” he added.
Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia of Cebu echoed Castro and called on the public to trust the President’s wisdom.
“The President has access to all information which many of us may not be privy to. He is the Commander in Chief, and he knows what should be done. Whatever the President may deem necessary for the good of the country with regards to the extension of martial law, then the House of Representatives will stand in full support of his decision,” Garcia said.
Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao however said: “Anakpawis party-list will consistently register our opposition if ever the President requests Congress for the extension of martial law.”
With LLANESCA T. PANTI