SOME members of the Senate majority who were among the 261 lawmakers who voted to extend martial law in Mindanao by five months said on Sunday they would move to revoke the declaration in case of human rights abuses.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd said Congress could again convene in joint session to cancel martial law earlier than December 31 if necessary, although he expressed doubt President Rodrigo Duterte would allow martial law to continue if there was no need for it.
Article 7, Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution states that “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.”
Sotto reminded critics of Duterte’s martial law that the May 23 declaration was different from the 1972 Martial Law of the Marcos regime, because Congress has the power to revoke it.
“Why not militants shout ‘no to terrorism’ or ‘Stop Maute’ or ‘Stop ISIS’ instead of ‘No to martial law,’” Sotto said in an interview over radio station dzBB.
Sen. Grace Poe also said she would support any move to lift martial law in case of confirmed reports of abuses, but said that for now, she would rather give soldiers recognition for their service and sacrifices.
“Majority of our soldiers there are doing what is right because they know that our countrymen are watching them,” she said.
Sen. Richard Gordon agreed, and said Congress could ask after 60 days if the conditions justifying the extension of martial law still prevailed.
“If not, then support for the extension of martial law can be withdrawn even before the expiry of the five-month extension,” Gordon said.
The President may also lift martial law before the extension expires if there is no more justification for it, lawmakers said.
On Saturday’s joint session of Congress that voted to extend martial law, Samira Gutoc, an aid worker, decried human rights violations against Marawi City residents under military rule, including blindfolding rescued civilians, putting a special child under interrogation, and ordering evacuees to strip naked for inspection.
Lagman to SC
Also on Sunday, opposition congressman Edcel Lagman of Albay said he would question what he claimed was an “illegal” five-month extension of martial law in Mindanao before the Supreme Court as soon as possible.
Lagman said the supermajority in the Senate as well as in the House could be “legally and politically wrong” on the extension on martial law because the Constitution provides that the President can initially declare martial law for only 60 days in case of rebellion, invasion, or when public safety requires it.
The 1987 Constitution also allows the President to ask Congress for an extension, but the extended martial law cannot be implemented without congressional approval.
“The discretion of the Congress to fix the period of the extension is not absolute. These safeguards will be eroded by an inordinately long extension,” Lagman told The Manila Times.
“We will question it before the Supreme Court as soon as possible. Towards the end of the week, the petition can be filed. The SC (Supreme Court) can limit the duration of the extension because under the Constitution, the original declaration of martial law is only for a limited period of 60 days. It stands to reason that any extension should not exceed the original period of 60 days,” Lagman explained.
“The coverage of the extended martial law is just too wide. They can’t even conclude that there is rebellion in the entire Mindanao. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said himself that there is no rebellion in entire Mindanao. What he said was they are afraid of the spillover [of rebel groups outside Marawi City],” he pointed out.
LLANESCA T. PANTI