House leaders eye executive session for martial law briefing

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 25 2017 12:20 PM

MANILA - Stressing that congressional approval is not required to implement martial law, leaders from the House of Representatives and the Senate will conduct separate briefings from the executive on President Rodrigo Duterte's recent declaration covering the entire Mindanao.

House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas on Thursday said per their agreement with the Senate Majority Leader, the Senate will be briefed on Monday afternoon and the House on Wednesday morning. 

He requested that Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Cabinet members, particularly the heads of the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of National Defense, appear "to answer questions about the Report of the President."

Other Cabinet officials Fariñas wants invited are from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Health, Department of Justice, Department of Tourism, Department of Transportation, and Department of Trade and Industry.

He explained that an executive session is necessary because "matters involving national security may be discussed like locations, tactics and strategy of those involved in the rebellion, more so, for the our government forces."

In 2009, a joint public session was conducted December 9, 10 and 14 to receive the written report of then President Gloria Arroyo as to why she placed Maguindanao under martial law after the massacre there and so her senior cabinet members can field questions from members of Congress. 

The marathon deliberations, which lasted for several hours, were dominated by questions from opposition politicians against the declaration.

Fariñas, however, shot down calls for a joint session since that would require a concurrent resolution from both chambers of congress. "If either does not want to, how can you have a Joint Session?"

He earlier said that the Congress only has to act on the President's declaration of a 60-day martial law in Mindanao "if it shall revoke such proclamation."

"If it is in favor of the proclamation, it does not have to act, but nothing prevents either or both Houses from expressing support," he said.

He explained that the 24-hour requirement to convene as stipulated in the 1987 Constitution is only for when Congress is not in session.

What applies now, he said, is this provision: "Within 48 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."

Malacañang on Wednesday sent a copy of Proclamation No. 216, Duterte’s official declaration of martial law in Mindanao, to Congress, nearly 24 hours since his announcement from Russia.