Congress should listen to Duterte on martial law – Alvarez
MANILA — It’s the job of Congress to listen to President Duterte on the matter of declaring martial law and not the other way around, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said Tuesday.
The Speaker, a staunch ally of the President, maintained that Congress was not being subservient to the President.
“Nothing in the Constitution says the President has to listen to Congress… If I were President, I would also say, ‘I won’t listen’ [to Congress]. We are the ones who should listen, not the President,” the leader of the House of Representatives told a press conference.
Asked to react to comments that Congress was being submissive to the President by refusing to hold a joint session immediately to review the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, Alvarez said the
observation was unfair.
“Does it mean, if the President is doing the right thing and we say he is doing the right thing, we are being subservient? That’s a very unfair statement,” the Speaker said.
Alvarez, a bosom buddy of Mr. Duterte, said the public should look at the situation objectively. “To those saying that, they should go to Marawi, so they will feel how extensive the problem is there.”
“Many of those complaining are not even from Mindanao,” said the Davao del Norte representative.
Mr. Duterte placed the entire Mindanao under martial law for 60 days in response to the siege of Marawi City by armed militants from the Maute group.
“If you’re from there, you will feel the need [for martial law]. The President made the right decision… If you’re not from there, be silent for the meantime. We are the ones concerned; that’s our security we’re talking about,” Alvarez said.
When Alvarez was asked about Congress’ power to revoke martial law, he said that would be when President Duterte should listen to Congress. “If we revoke, then he has to listen. That’s clear.”
In spite of a clamor from critics for a joint session, Congress leaders have insisted it is not necessary based strictly on the wording in the 1987 Constitution.
“It’s clear in the Constitution. Within 48 hours, the President is mandated to submit a report to Congress personally or in writing. So the next step is, for example, if Congress says there’s no need to declare martial law, then we need to convene joint session. But if there are no objections, why should we convene?” Alvarez said.
The House has convened itself as a Committee of the Whole and will meet with national security officials on Wednesday to discuss the parameters of martial law.
Part of the meeting involving national security will be closed-door.
Alvarez said he was not discounting the possibility of a joint session of Congress before the lapse of the 60-day period.
He was also open to extending the period of martial law beyond two months “if necessary.” SFM/rga
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