Speaker vows to defy Supreme Court
Any order from the Supreme Court for a joint session of Congress to review the declaration of martial law in Mindanao will end up in shreds.
“There would really be a constitutional crisis — and it wouldn’t be our fault,” Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez told reporters on Thursday.
The leader of the House of Representatives was asked by reporters to respond to the petitions asking the high tribunal to compel Congress to jointly deliberate on President Duterte’s Proclamation No. 216 placing Mindanao under martial rule and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus after Islamist militants laid siege to Marawi City on May 23.
The petitioners argued that a joint session of Congress was mandated under the 1987 Constitution.
The House and the Senate overwhelmingly approved separate resolutions declaring their support for the martial law declaration just before they adjourned their session last week.
“They should review their law books. How can the Supreme Court dictate Congress what to do? We’re a coequal body,” Alvarez said.
Asked what he would do if the court issued a directive for a joint session of Congress, Alvarez said: “I would rip it up.”
“That’s a joke, right? Like I said, they should study again and review their law books,” said the Davao del Norte representative.
Alvarez said he did not understand the logic of the petitioners.
“The majority of the Senate has passed a resolution supporting the declaration of martial law. The House of Representatives has passed a resolution with the majority supporting the declaration of martial law,” he said.
All about grandstanding
“Now, if you convene, what else will we talk about? We already know the decision. Maybe they just want to do their grandstanding in that joint session,” Alvarez said.
On Monday, seven opposition congressmen who call themselves the “Magnificent 7” filed a petition in the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of Mr. Duterte’s martial law proclamation.
The high court, moving swiftly on Tuesday, directed the government to reply to the petition and set oral arguments for three days next week.
Later on Tuesday, Florin Hilbay, former President Benigno Aquino III’s solicitor general, along with other lawyers allied with the previous administration, filed a petition in the high tribunal seeking to compel Congress to hold a joint session to review Mr. Duterte’s proclamation, citing “the clear constitutional requirement for Congress to convene and vote jointly.”
On Wednesday, another group of petitioners, led by former Sen. Wigberto Tañada and Catholic bishops, likewise urged the high court to direct Congress to comply with the the constitutional requirement.
Theodore Te, the Supreme Court’s spokesperson, on Thursday said the two mandamus petitions separately filed by the groups of Hilbay and Tañada would probably be consolidated because they involved similar issues.
But the two petitions would be treated differently from the one lodged by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and six other opposition congressmen, who said Mr. Duterte’s Proclamation No. 216 was unconstitutional.
“They differ from the petition challenging the factual basis for martial law in Mindanao and will thus not be consolidated with the martial law petition,” Te said in a statement.
“[They] will not be covered by the court’s instructions given last Tuesday for preliminary conference and oral arguments,” he added.
Te noted that the two petitions regarding the joint congressional session were filed after the magistrates had adjourned their weekly full-court session last Tuesday.
“The petitions will most likely be consolidated and will be dealt with separately,” he said.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson told a news forum on Thursday his “fearless guess” was that the court would not issue such a directive to a “coequal branch of government.”
“If at all, the court could resolve the other issue, which is whether there was basis for the martial law proclamation,” the senator said.
Lacson was one of 12 senators who voted to junk the Senate resolution, filed by Aquino allies, seeking a joint session to review the proclamation of martial law in Mindanao.
He also was among 17 senators who voted for another Senate resolution stating there was no need to revoke the martial law declaration for now.
Lacson said the Constitution was clear that Congress would only hold a joint session to discuss a martial law proclamation if the two chambers would revoke it.
He said that during interpellation of the Senate resolution seeking a joint session of Congress, it was pointed out that former Constitutional Commission member Christian Monsod argued in 1986 that the President should be given flexibility to exercise emergency powers under martial law unless revoked by Congress.
He said Monsod was one of the petitioners now in the high court. “Where is the consistency?” he asked.
Asked what would happen if the high court ruled that the proclamation had no factual basis and President Duterte refused to follow it, Lacson said there would be a constitutional crisis.
He said he did not think the President would disobey the court despite “all the bravado pronouncements.”
“We have seen how he would say things but in the end he will take a different action and follow the law,” Lacson added. —WITH REPORTS FROM MARLON RAMOS AND CHRISTINE O. AVENDAÑO
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