Thursday, November 15, 2018
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Martial law gets Congress OK

Allies of President Duterte in Congress on Wednesday drove the final nail in the coffin of opposition moves for a joint session to reject his declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

At the prodding of Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, the House of Representatives on Wednesday night passed with an overwhelming vote of “aye” a resolution introduced earlier expressing full support for Mr. Duterte’s Proclamation No. 216.

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The resolution was introduced after a six-hour briefing behind closed doors by security officials.

The House leadership, to the dismay of opposition lawmakers, opted not to call a joint session, which would have required members of both the House and the Senate to vote individually.

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They argued that the 1987 Constitution does not specifically require joint voting if neither chamber wants to revoke the martial law proclamation.

Akbayan Rep. Tomasito Villarin said the security briefing left him with the impression that it was just the President calling the shots.

“The executive also seems to have no coherent and holistic assessment of what necessitated the declaration. Nor was there a clear plan of how the situation in Mindanao will be resolved. Everything seems to be at the sole discretion of the President,” he said.

He said any resolution approved by the House to express support for the martial law declaration would be rendered unconstitutional by the fact that it had not been done in a joint session of Congress.

“Congress failed to exercise its shared powers with the President in any martial law declaration with such move. As such, we will continue to question the declaration before the Supreme Court,” Villarin said.

Close fight

In the Senate, the minority bloc accepted defeat following the junking of its resolution seeking a joint session of Congress to tackle the President’s emergency in Mindanao.

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A day after the Senate voted 12-9 to reject the six-member minority bloc’s Resolution No. 390, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon acknowledged that it was a close fight since the final tally could have been 12-10 because Sen. Joel Villanueva would have voted with them on Tuesday night had he been in the chamber then.

“It takes two to tango. So nothing would come out of it,” Drilon told reporters.

Drilon also said his group would now just “support any effort to go to the Supreme Court” after it had initially said it was open to petitioning the high court.

Addressing the 292-seat lower chamber before the closed security briefing, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez reminded the lawmakers that their decision whether to uphold the President’s Proclamation No. 216 would “determine the trajectory of our response to the grave threats posed by terror groups,” including the Maute group.

Martial law concern

“Will our collective response extend a helping hand to our Commander in Chief and, consequently, empower him to decisively destroy the delusional terror dreams of these extremist groups?” he said.

“Or will our response be to view the occasion from ivory towers and, while disconnected from the realities on the ground, choose to chain the hands of the President at a time when he needs our full support the most?” Alvarez continued.

Alvarez said he understood why some were wary of martial law, referring to the country’s experience under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

“Let us view the situation not exclusively from the perspective of the past. Our present Constitution provides sufficient safeguards to prevent abuses by agents of the state,” Alvarez said.

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TAGS: House of Representatives, Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, Martial law, Philippine news updates, President Duterte
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