MANILA - House Speaker Prospero Nograles is in favor of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's declaration of martial law in Maguindanao.
In an interview over dzMM on Saturday, Nograles said that "as a Mindanaoan, my personal opinion is, for a limited period of 60 days, I will support it so that the prosecution arm of the government can move freely and get the witnesses and gather evidence without fear."
"For 60 days, 2 months, para lang matapos yung evidence gathering, okay naman sa akin," Nograles, who will be running for Davao City mayor in next year's polls, said.
He noted that the government was having difficulty applying the rule of law with respect to the killings of 57 innocent civilians in the November 23 Maguindanao massacre since many witnesses and even judges are afraid.
De facto martial law
Nograles also said that there was already a de facto martial law in Maguindanao since the military "has been all over the place" after they took over the provincial capitol of Maguindanao last week.
"So this declaration of martial law there today, Proclamation 1959, is only an official declaration of what is a de facto situation there," he said.
Nograles also said there is no need for Congress to convene in joint session if it does not intend to revoke Proclamation 1959.
Under the 1987 Constitution, he said Congress can revoke the martial law declaration by a majority vote of both Houses in joint session.
"If they feel it's not necessary, they will let it go on in 60 days," Nograles said.
However, he said President Arroyo must submit a report to Congress on her declaration and on the situation in Maguindanao within 48 hours.
Congress will then assess her report and decide whether to revoke the declaration.
"If we will, we will immediately hold a joint session in order to revoke it, but I don't think we need to hold a joint session in the event we won't revoke it. There is no need to affirm it," he said.
After accepting Arroyo's report, Nograles said Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile will call for a caucus of senators while he will call for a caucus of the members of the House of Representatives.
The legislators will then decide whether they plan to revoke Proclamation 1959.
Nograles said in a belated text message sent to reporters on Saturday that he and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile may call for a joint session of Congress on Tuesday to discuss the martial law report from President Arroyo as required by the Constitution.
Ball is with the House
When Congress is in joint session to take up martial law, Nograles said the "ball is in the court of the House" since they can outvote the Senate.
There are 268 congressmen and only 23 senators.
"So the player here is the House more than the Senate because we outnumber them," Nograles added.
House majority say GMA correct
In a text message sent to reporters on Saturday, Nograles said "majority of [House] members think that the decision by the president is correct."
"Fact is, that many say it should have been done sooner," he added.
Nograles said he intends to call a caucus on Monday before putting up the issue on the House agenda.
He said anyone can also stand up to support or attack the martial law declaration during the privilege hour held every Monday.
"Personally, I think that in this case both Houses of Congress do not indicate any majority numbers with any intention to revoke the proclamation, which is only good for sixty days," he said.