SENATE Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd said on Tuesday that he expected the approval of the extension of martial law in Mindanao by the upper chamber to be handed down smoothly, but added that it would have to resolve the question of whether voting would be done jointly or separately with the House of Representatives.
“Yes, based on the reports that will be given in the briefings,” said Sotto when asked if Congress would allow the extension of martial law in Mindanao.
According to Sotto, President Rodrigo Duterte told them about the situation in the southern Philippines, including in Zamboanga and Jolo, and said that he was convinced that martial law needed to be extended Mindanao-wide.
“I feel it’s quite scary if we do not resolve the Mindanao problem,” added Sotto, who was present during the meeting between the President and some members of Congress in Malacanang Monday.
Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23 following a clash between the Islamic State-linked Maute group and government forces in Marawi City. The maximum 60-day duration of martial law under the 1987 Constitution ends on July 22.
Section 18 Article 7 of the 1987 Constitution states that the president “in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law.”
The same constitutional provision also authorizes Congress, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its members in regular or special session, to revoke, suspend or extend martial law “if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.”
Sotto said a special session would be held by Congress on Saturday to discuss the martial extension, which the President wants for another 60 days.
The Senate majority leader also said that Congress would also try to resolve the issue of voting either jointly or separately on the issue of martial law extension.
Sotto said while he expected debates, the Senate would try to avoid lengthy ones.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson had admitted the Senate would be irrelevant in the voting of the joint session of Congress, because the House was much bigger than the 22-member Senate.
Under the Constitution, Congress only needs to muster a simple majority of all its members, so that will be one half plus one, to get the recommendation approved.