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Alvarez: Supreme Court can't tell Congress what to do

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said on Thursday said that Congress would disregard any Supreme Court ruling compelling it to conduct a joint session to discuss the declaration of military rule in Mindanao. Pantaleon Alvarez/Released

MANILA, Philippines — House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Thursday warned of a constitutional crisis as he vowed that Congress would disregard any ruling from the Supreme Court compelling it to convene to review President Rodrigo Duterte’s martial law declaration in Mindanao.

Speaking to reporters, Alvarez emphasized that the House of Representatives and the Senate would not heed the SC on this issue.

“Wala silang karapatan para diktahan ang Kongreso kung anong dapat naming gawin.”

Alvarez, whom Duterte picked to lead the House when he won last year’s presidential election, said the High Court cannot issue an order directing a co-equal branch of government to conduct a joint session.

He even warned that he might even tear the order to pieces.

“Ah, balikan muna nila ang law books. How can the Supreme Court dictate Congress what to do? Co-equal body yan. O, mag-issue ng direktiba ang Supreme Court telling Congress, dictating Congress na, 'uy, mag convene kayo ng joint session'? Punitin ko 'yan,” he said.

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Hundreds of lawyers petition Supreme Court 

On Tuesday, a petition was filed by former Sen. Rene Saguisag, constitutional commission member Christian Monsod, Sen. Leila De Lima, former Commission on Human Rights chair Loretta Ann Rosales, former Philippine Health Insurance Corp. Director Alexander Padilla and law professor Rene Gorospe.

More than 300 lawyers, including former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, signified their support for the appeal.  

Alvarez also slammed the critics of martial law in Mindanao who insist that the two houses of Congress convene to discuss Duterte's proclamation.

Some of them might just want to grandstand during the deliberations, Alvarez said.

“[N]agpasa na ang majority nung Senado supporting yung declaration ng martial law. Nagpasa ng resolution dito sa House of Representatives, majority supporting the declaration of martial law. Ngayon, mag-convene ka ng joint session, anong pag-uusapan natin? Alam na natin kung anong decision. O, ay siguro baka naman gusto nilang mag-grandstanding lang diyan sa joint session,” he said.

According to the 1987 Constitution, the president, as commander-in-chief, has the power to place the Philippines or any of its parts under martial rule.

“The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion. In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law,” Article VII, Section 18 of the 1987 Charter reads.

The same provision continues: “Within forty-eight hours from the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, the President shall submit a report in person or in writing to the Congress. 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.”

“Upon the initiative of the President, the Congress may, in the same manner, extend such proclamation or suspension for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.”

“The Congress, if not in session, shall, within twenty-four hours following such proclamation or suspension, convene in accordance with its rules without need of a call.”

Allies of the president said that there is no need to call a joint session of Congress since this would be done only if it would revoke the chief executive’s declaration.

Congress convened in joint session when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared martial law in Maguindanao province. The declaration was also questioned before the Supreme Court but martial law was lifted before the court could rule on the matter.

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