• House insists on joint voting on martial law

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    HOUSE Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said the two Houses of Congress would vote as one body in today’s joint session called by the President to discuss the extension of martial law in Mindanao, warning of a deadlock if the Senate pressed for separate voting.

    Fariñas told reporters on Friday the 1987 Constitution was “very clear” on the matter.

    “If the two Houses of Congress vote separately in revoking or extending the proclamation of Martial Law, I am almost certain that the Supreme Court will rule such unconstitutional,” Fariñas said.

    “The Constitution is very clear and leaves no room for interpretation,” he added.

    A total of 158 votes of the combined House and Senate membership are needed to secure the extension.

    In a letter to Congress, the President sought a five-month extension of martial law in Mindanao, saying there was a threat of rebellion from the Abu Sayyaf, Ansarul Khilafah Philippines and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, aside from the Maute terrorist group.

    The President declared martial law in Mindanao after the Islamic State-linked Maute group attacked Marawi City on May 23. The maximum 60-day period of martial law set by the Constitution ends at 10 p.m.

    Under the Constitution, Congress “voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its Members in regular or special session” may revoke the proclamation of martial law and may “in the same manner” extend such proclamation.

    “Indeed, if each House votes separately and decides differently, we will have a deadlock and won’t be able to revoke or extend martial law,” Fariñas said.

    Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday urged the Senate to raise the question of joint or separate voting, as there were only 23 senators compared with nearly 300 representatives.

    “It doesn’t make sense that the Senate is rendered irrelevant under a bicameral system,” he added.

    Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd said senators needed to participate in the joint session despite being outnumbered by the House, because the Constitution requires it.

    LP senators to question extension until Dec. 31

    Liberal Party senators will question the need to extend martial law in Mindanao until December 31 during today’s joint session of Congress.

    Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, chairman of the erstwhile ruling party, said that while Liberals were supportive of soldiers laying their lives on the line in Marawi City, the martial law extension until yearend “is not justified.”

    “Likewise, we believe that the coverage of the whole Mindanao cannot be justified under our Constitution,” he said.

    But the party president, Sen. Francis Pangilinan, conceded that lawmakers opposed to the five-month extension would be soundly defeated.

    “Considering that the administration has control of the lower house I don’t think the debates will be too lengthy.
    This is in the end a numbers game and the numbers are overwhelmingly in their favor,” he said.

    But Sen. Grace Poe said she expected a lengthy debate, as “[t]he issue of the duration of martial law will be raised and what the administration plans to accomplish at such time.”

    Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito said he would not raise any issue “because I am convinced of the need for extension of martial law.”

    Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd said “I will just do my job of trying to make the proceedings go smoothly.”

    with  BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO

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