THE defiance that Congress leaders have shown in dealing with a constitutional question over the declaration of martial law in Mindanao is quite disturbing.
And then you hear the Speaker of the House warning of a constitutional crisis if the Supreme Court comes up with a resolution directing Congress to convene and review the martial law declaration. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has even threatened to tear up the order, should there be one.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd is among the 17 senators reported to have thrown their support behind Proclamation 216, entitled ‘Declaring a state of martial law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao.’
Alvarez’s reaction to the possibility of the Supreme Court compelling the Senate and the House to assemble in joint session to review the martial law declaration was uncalled for. It showed utter disrespect for the high tribunal which is authorized under the Constitution to review the sufficiency of the factual basis of the martial law proclamation.
Indeed, the May 23 siege of Marawi City by Islamic State-inspired Maute militants led by Abu Sayyaf commander Isnilon Hapilon needed swift decisive military action, but the declaration of martial law covering the entire Mindanao shocked many, particularly those still suffering the trauma of abuses under the Marcos regime.
Despite the declaration of martial law, the fighting continues on its third week between the Maute militants and the military and has even needed assistance from the United States to end the siege.
The involvement of the US forces comes after months of strain between Manila and Washington, following President Duterte’s hostility towards the US government and his threats to throw out the US troops who have long provided training and assistance to the Philippines.
The situation calls for a review, not with the view of revoking the President’s martial law proclamation but more of looking closely at the options available and determining if martial law was the best move under the circumstances.
If a bill changing the name of a street or renaming a school after a deceased politician is required to pass three readings, with printed copies distributed to each member of Congress, and signed by the President before it becomes law, why can’t a martial law proclamation be discussed in session?
Were the administration allies in Congress too afraid to show the public during the debates the strengths and weaknesses of Proclamation 216? Perhaps discussing the issues in plenary would even convince critics about the timeliness of amending the 1987 Constitution so that terrorism may justify the declaration of martial law.
As it is, Section 18, Article 7 of the Constitution is clear. Martial law may only be resorted to in times of invasion or rebellion. But then, the President, as Commander in Chief, may call out the military to prevent or suppress lawless violence.
But the Congress leaders refused to convene to discuss the issue, and put forward their interpretation of the Constitution that convening was necessary only if it were to revoke the martial law proclamation.
How more twisted can they get in interpreting the law? Are they so afraid that they will not get their pork barrel or whatever they now call the largesse, if they convene to discuss the issue?
The Senate, with the support of 17 administration allies, simply adopted a resolution “expressing the sense of the Senate not to revoke, at this time, Proclamation 216, series of 2017.”
The crop of Congress leaders that we have now could make one scream in embarrassment. They are taking too seriously the executive order issued early on by the Duterte administration.
Remember the July 15 memorandum of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to all government offices that conveys the directive of President Duterte “to refrain from addressing him as ‘His Excellency,’ and the Cabinet secretaries as ‘Honorable’ in official and internal communications?
The President’s followers in the legislative branch are observing the memorandum as well even if it covered only those in the executive. They have not only dropped the title, they have also stopped acting honorable.
Nowadays we seldom see the marks of honorable men: selflessness, humility, and truthfulness. This is especially so in politics where there are no permanent friends and enemies, only vested interests. His Excellency and Honorable are courtesy titles used on persons you hold in high esteem. Persons with twisted brains don’t deserve it.