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Alvarez: No need for joint session on martial law

There is no need for the House of Representatives and the Senate to hold a joint session to discuss President Duterte’s martial law proclamation in Mindanao unless Congress wants to revoke it, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said yesterday. Pantaleon Alvarez/Released

MANILA, Philippines - There is no need for the House of Representatives and the Senate to hold a joint session to discuss President Duterte’s martial law proclamation in Mindanao unless Congress wants to revoke it, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said yesterday.

This developed as House administration allies voted overwhelmingly last night to convene into a Committee of the Whole for purposes of taking up the legal basis of the 60-day martial law in Mindanao.

The congressmen arrived at the decision by voice vote after House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas brought up before the plenary Proclamation 216, which is the basis for the military rule in the entire region.

The Committee of the Whole will convene tomorrow at 9 a.m. “to consider the Report and will decide whether it will move for the revocation of the Proclamation.” 

“We will vote in the majority if we have to call for a joint session, and then consult the Senate if a joint session is OK,” Speaker Alvarez said in Filipino earlier in an interview with dzMM.

One thing specifically clear in the 1987 Constitution, he said, is a provision requiring the President to submit a report to Congress within 48 hours of his declaration of martial law. He stressed that Congress – voting jointly – may revoke the proclamation.

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“May revoke the proclamation – it doesn’t say we need to approve it,” he clarified.

House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas agrees. “A joint session needs the concurrence of both Houses. If the majority of each House wants a joint session, each will adopt a Concurrent Resolution for that purpose,” the Ilocos Norte congressman, also a lawyer by profession, explained.

“The position of each legislator may be expressed in the sessions of the House and the Senate when they separately consider the report of the President. If either House finds that there is no need to revoke the martial law proclamation of the President, a joint session may not happen,” Fariñas pointed out.

But senators from the minority bloc filed yesterday an urgent resolution calling for a joint session of Congress to deliberate on President Duterte’s martial law declaration.

Senate Resolution 390 filed by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sens. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Leila de Lima, Risa Hontiveros, Francis Pangilinan and Antonio Trillanes IV was not taken up on the floor as the chamber immediately adjourned to listen to a closed door briefing by security officials.

De Lima, detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, signed the resolution and appealed to her colleagues to approve the measure.

“Our painful experience with the imposition of martial law under the Marcos dictatorship became the impetus for the clear limitations on the President’s exercise of the extraordinary powers, including the discretion granted to Congress to make an independent determination if the constitutional grounds for the limited curtailment of the people’s rights are followed,” the resolution read.

The opposition senators stressed it was incumbent upon the Senate and the House of Representatives to conduct a joint session pursuant to the constitutional mandates of transparency and accountability in government, to promote the right of the citizen to information of public interest and the “fundamental underlying principle of checks and balances among the separate branches of government.”

They cited the Supreme Court ruling in Fortun vs Macapagal-Arroyo that the President and Congress “act in tandem” in exercising the power to proclaim martial law or suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

Aside from lack of support from the 17-member majority bloc, the possibility of the resolution being tackled at length is slim as Congress is set to adjourn on Friday.

SC help eyed

Pangilinan, president of the Liberal Party, admitted that their resolution is likely to be junked so their next move is to bring the matter to the Supreme Court (SC).

“There is an alternative in our Constitution, at least on this issue of martial law, we can bring it before the SC,” he said. – With Perseus Echeminada

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