Alvarez says no need for Congress to convene on martial law report
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said there is no need for Congress to convene in a session to vote on the martial law declaration, especially because President Rodrigo Duterte chose to report to Congress in writing instead of in person.
In a radio interview with DZRH on Thursday, Alvarez said each member of Congress would instead be provided with copies of the President’s report and that Congress could convene if it decides to extend the martial law beyond the allowable 60 day period.
“Wala namang nakalagay na ganyan sa Saligang Batas, na kinakailangang mag-special session kaagad kami para talakayin iyan. Malinaw sa provision noong Saligang Batas, paulit-ulit kong binasa iyan, na ang mandato ay sa Pangulo lamang. Pagka nagdeklara siya ng martial law, within 48 hours kailangan magreport siya sa Congress either in person or in writing,” Alvarez said.
(There is nothing in the Constitution that states that Congress needs to have a special session to discuss that. It is clear in the Constitutional provision, which I repeatedly read, that the mandate rests only with the President. Once he declares martial law, within 48 hours he has to report to Congress either in person or in writing.)
“So sa tingin ko, kung in person, kailangan kaming mag-convene para pakinggan ‘‘yung ating Pangulo. At kung in writing naman, hindi na kami kailangang mag-convene at kailangan lang bigyan namin ng kopya ‘‘yung bawat miyembro ng Kongreso noong report ng Pangulo na nagdeclare siya ng martial law (So in my view, if he will report in person, we have to convene so as to listen to the President. If in writing, we need not convene and that we only need to give each members of Congress a copy of the President’s martial law declaration report),” he added.
Under the 1987 Constitution, the President is required to submit to Congress within 48 hours a report on the martial law declaration. Congress voting jointly may then vote to revoke the martial law declaration on a majority vote.
Alvarez said the President only did what was right in declaring martial law to finally stamp out terrorism in the Mindanao region.
“Tama po ‘yung ginawa ng ating Pangulo, ‘yun pagdeklara ng martial law sa buong Mindanao para sa… once and for all po matapos na itong problema natin na ito,” Alvarez said.
(The President only did what was right in declaring martial law in Mindanao… so that once and for all the problem there would be resolved)
Congress would also be briefed by members of the executive department about the martial law declaration, majority leader Rudy Fariñas said.
In a message to reporters, the leader of the House of Representatives majority bloc said Alvarez has approved the request for Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Cabinet members, particularly in the Departments of National Defense and Interior and Local Government, to answer questions from members of Congress about the President’s martial law report.
“May I have the Executive Secretary, and certain Cabinet members, more particularly the DILG and DND, invited to appear before us at 9:00 a.m. to answer questions about the Report of the President?” Fariñas quoted his request to Malacañang.
Fariñas said upon the agreement with Senate majority leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, the Senate would be briefed by the executive department on Monday afternoon, and the lower house on Wednesday morning.
Fariñas said he would move on Monday’s session to constitute the lower house into a Committee of the Whole to have an executive session at the session hall.
Fariñas said the lower house would invite heads of the Departments of Social Welfare and Development, Health, Justice Tourism, Transportation, Trade and Industry, among others in case members of Congress might have questions for them during the briefing.
Fariñas said for Congress to hold a joint session, both houses of Congress must pass a concurrent resolution calling on both houses to call for a joint session.
But it seems like both the lower house and the Senate are not interested in holding a joint session, Fariñas said.
“A Joint Session requires a Concurrent Resolution of both houses to call Congress into such Joint Session. If either does not want to, how can you have a Joint Session?” Fariñas said.
Duterte declared martial law and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao following the attack of the Maute group in Marawi City, where buildings were burnt, people taken hostage, and flags of the Islamic State (ISIS) hoisted in the siege carried out by the ISIS-inspired terror group.
Duterte warned that his orders would be shoot to kill, and that warrantless arrests could be carried out in Mindanao following his declaration. He also warned that martial law there would be no different and as harsh as that declared by the dictator Marcos.
The President even said he is considering imposing martial law nationwide if terror groups inspired by ISIS gain a foothold in Luzon and Visayas.
According to the 1987 Constitution, the President as commander-in-chief of all armed forces may declare martial law or suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus to “prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion ” for 60 days subject to approval of Congress.
“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 Constitution stated.
The President is required to report within 48 hours about the declaration of martial law to Congress, which may vote jointly to revoke the proclamation in a majority vote.
“Within forty-eight hours from the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, the President shall submit a report in person or in writing to the Congress. The 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,” it added.
Congress may also extend the proclamation or suspension of martial law upon the initiative of the President “if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it,” the Constitution stated.
The Supreme Court may also review the need for a declaration of martial law or suspension of the privilege of writ of habeas corpus upon an appropriate proceeding filed by a concerned citizen.
The Constitution states that a state of martial law “does not suspend the operation of the Constitution, nor supplant the functioning of the civil courts or legislative assemblies, nor authorize the conferment of jurisdiction on military courts and agencies over civilians where civil courts are able to function, nor automatically suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.” JE/rga
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