MANILA – The legislature is now awaiting President Rodrigo Duterte's justification for his declaration of martial law in Mindanao in the wake of clashes between government troops and the terrorist Maute Group in Marawi City.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said Wednesday that Congress was awaiting Duterte's report on his declaration, made Tuesday night as he decided to cut short his official visit to Russia to attend to the security emergency.
“As provided by the Constitution, we in Congress will wait for the report of the President justifying the declaration of martial law in Mindanao,” Pimentel said in a statement.
The Senate leader, among Duterte's key allies in the chamber, was with the President in his shortened visit to Moscow.
Duterte declared martial law after the Maute group on Tuesday occupied schools, a hospital, and a parish in Marawi City following the military's attempt to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
Congress is constitutionally mandated to review a martial law declaration within 48 hours from its proclamation. Through a joint majority vote of both houses, Congress may, in regular or special session, revoke or uphold such declaration. It may also decide to extend the period.
While not explicitly backing Duterte’s declaration, Pimentel said “there is no question that the violence perpetrated by the Maute gang of terrorists allegedly in connivance with Abu Sayyaf has to be met by the corresponding force of the government to insure public safety of the residents of Mindanao and the tourists visiting the island.”
Senator Manny Pacquiao, among the President's staunch allies, meanwhile allayed fears over Duterte's declaration of military rule in Mindanao.
"Our current Constitution provides adequate safeguards against possible abuses which are not available in our previous Constitution," Pacquiao, a Mindanaoan lawmaker, said in a statement.
While Duterte has yet to explain his declaration to the legislative branch, Pacquiao said it was a "timely and necessary" move amid the conflict in Marawi City.
"The declaration of martial law is just a temporary yet decisive measure to protect the people, to prevent any further loss of lives and to suppress lawless violence," the boxing icon said.
Pacquiao urged the public to stay calm and vigilant as "the military and the police are doing appropriate actions to restore stability and order in the area."