Congress convenes in special session to tackle martial law extension
(Updated, 10:50 a.m.) The House of Representatives and the Senate on Saturday convened in a special session to tackle the request of President Rodrigo Duterte to extend the martial law in Mindanao.
Before the session, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III led a meeting over breakfast to iron out the Rules of the Special Session, where Congress will vote jointly on the need to extend the Mindanao martial law.
The gavel was banged at around 9 a.m. signaling the convening of both Houses of Congress.
Congress is set to decide on the length of time for the martial law to be extended in Mindanao, after the 60-day period under the 1987 Constitution lapsed since Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao following the Maute terrorists’ attack in Marawi city.
Duterte declared martial law over the whole of Mindanao last May 23, which under the Constitution’s 60-day prescription would lapse Saturday, July 22.
Congress will decide Saturday if it would grant President Duterte’s request to extend his martial law decree until the end of 2017.
In an interview with reporters after the meeting, minority leader Danilo Suarez said senators and representatives will vote separately, but their votes will be added in the end.
According to the Constitution, Congress will vote jointly on talks to extend martial law, and will determine the period of extension.
Senator Tito Sotto meanwhile said three minutes will be allotted for interpellation, while explanation of vote will be allotted one minute for each lawmaker.
The roll call showed that 14 senators and 242 representatives were present for the joint session.
During session, both Houses of Congress adopted Resolution of Both Houses 10, which called for Congress to convene in a special joint session to tackle Duterte’s martial law extension request.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon moved to amend the Rules of the Joint Special Session which initially allowed each lawmaker a maximum of two minutes for interpellation. Drilon asked Congress to allow at least four minutes for interpellation.
The majority leader in Congress then adopted the amendment to show that four minutes be allowed for each lawmaker to interpellate.
Later, House majority leader Rudy Fariñas and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman argued over the explanation of vote under nominal voting, which allows lawmakers to explain their vote.
Fariñas said the explanation of the vote should be done after votes have been tallied.
Lagman said the explanation should be done upon casting of vote, because explaining the vote after tallying the votes could only be a “post-mortem explanation.”
The House later shot down Lagman’s motion in a viva voce vote.
The House then adopted Duterte’s communication to Congress, where the President urged Congress to extend martial law until the end of the year due to the persistence of rebellion and terrorism in the south.
House leaders are now open to convening Congress to tackle the extension of martial law, although they earlier thumbed down calls to convene to deliberate on the report of the President when he first imposed martial rule in Mindanao.
Alvarez and Fariñas earlier said the duty of Congress is to listen to the report of the President, and not the other way around – for the President to listen to Congress before deciding whether or not to declare martial law. IDL
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