Congress tackles martial law today
Both houses of Congress have yet to decide on the rules of the special session that will convene today to decide whether to approve President Duterte’s request to extend martial law in Mindanao.
At the same time, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. reiterated the need to extend martial law to block around 700 jihadis in the Middle East from coming to the country.
Congressional leaders said the rules committees of both houses would meet privately on the manner of voting and other rules “so as not to ruffle anyone’s feathers.”
But for House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, voting separately would almost certainly result in legal challenges, or worse, in Congress’ failure to resolve an issue of national importance.
“If the two houses of Congress vote separately in revoking or extending the proclamation of martial law, I am almost certain that the Supreme Court will rule such [as] unconstitutional,” he said.
“If each house votes separately and decides differently, we will have a deadlock and won’t be able to revoke or extend martial law,” said Fariñas, chairman of the House rules committee.
Fariñas aired his opinion when asked about the concerns of some senators that their small number would render the Senate virtually “irrelevant.”
Senators Panfilo Lacson and Richard Gordon noted that only 22 senators would be present during the session and would be vastly outnumbered by 293 congressmen.
But Fariñas said the 1987 Constitution was “very clear” and left “no room for interpretation” on how Congress should vote on questions related to martial law.
It states: “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.”
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said he “never thought that was an issue” and agreed with Fariñas that the law was very clear.
“We are senators. When the Constitution says ‘voting jointly,’ then we follow. We are lawmakers, hence we should follow the supreme law. What’s really the issue? Sorry, I don’t get it,” Pimentel said.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto agreed and said “there’s nothing to debate. Everyone knows that.”
Recto said he was more concerned with the debate rules and other procedures.
After a briefing by top security officials on Wednesday, most senators agreed on the need to extend martial law in Mindanao but differed on the duration and scope of coverage.
“The Liberal Party will raise the issue of the need for a martial law extension until year-end,” Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said on Friday.
“Likewise, we believe that the coverage of the whole Mindanao cannot be justified under our Constitution,” he added.
Sen. Grace Poe said she would question the duration of martial law and what the administration planned to accomplish during that time. “I expect a lengthy debate,” she said.
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