MANILA - Leaders of the House of Representatives have asked lawmakers to remain in Manila in preparation for receiving President Rodrigo Duterte’s basis for declaring martial law in Mindanao in the wake of the siege in Marawi City.
House majority leader Rodolfo Fariñas made this statement as lawmakers are known to return to their constituencies after the end of congressional sessions on Wednesdays.
"All Members are advised to stay put in Manila. Under our Rules, our sessions are until Friday. The President will head back home ASAP (from Russia) and we may have session as soon as we receive his official report,” Fariñas told his fellow lawmakers in a statement.
Fariñas cited that Congress was constitutionally mandated to review martial law within 48 hours from its proclamation.
Voting jointly, both Houses of Congress may, by a vote of at least a majority of all its Members in regular or special session, revoke such proclamation.
Congress may also extend such proclamation for a period to be determined by the body.
“We will have to wait for the report of the President in order for us to exercise our constitutional duty on the matter. In the meantime, we ask our people to remain calm and to keep safe,” Fariñas said.
Local terror group Maute on Tuesday occupied schools, a hospital, and a parish in Marawi City after the military attempted to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
The siege prompted Duterte to declare martial law over the whole of Mindanao.
Human rights groups and various opposition politicians expressed concerns over the declaration, saying rights of ordinary Filipinos might be violated.
Duterte said he "will be harsh" in dealing with the terror groups now that the martial law is in place, adding its implementation will be similar to that of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Human Rights Watch (HRW), a staunch critic of Duterte’s war on drugs, said the “lawlessness” of the government’s war on drugs “heightens grave concerns that his declaration of martial law in Mindanao will bring further rampant abuses.”
“The Philippine Constitution contains guarantees for the protection of human rights and civil liberties during martial rule. We call upon the administration -- as well as the Congress and the courts – to ensure that these important protections remain in force,” said HRW Asia Division Deputy Director Phil Robertson in a statement.
“The Filipino people, having suffered martial law under the Marcos dictatorship, fully appreciate the important role played by human rights activists, the legal community, and the independent media in defending rights," he said.
Fariñas, meanwhile, dismissed criticisms to the martial law declaration, saying the executive department has not even submitted the official report to Congress.
“Prudence dictates that we hold judgment until we hear the President thru his authorized representatives to give us a briefing. We are thousands of kilometers away and do not know the situation on the ground,” he said.