House won't convene to discuss martial law: Speaker Alvarez

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 25 2017 12:15 PM | Updated as of May 25 2017 12:42 PM

The House of Representatives will not convene its members to discuss the martial law declaration of President Duterte in Mindanao following the attack of Maute fighters in Marawi City, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said Thursday.

"Natanggap po namin yung written report ng ating Pangulo kagabi. Wala po kaming gagawin na pag convene ng Kongreso pero bigyan ng kopya bawat miyembro," Alvarez said in an interview on ANC.

(We received the written report of the President last night. We will not convene Congress but we will give a copy of the written report to each member.)

He added: "Napagkasunduan namin na lahat ng mga kongresista lalo yung mga taga-Mindanao ay umuwi muna sa kanilang mga distrito upang tignan 'yung kalagayan ng kanilang mga constituents."

(The House members agreed that representatives, especially lawmakers from Mindanao, should return to their respective districts to check on the condition of their constituents.)

Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III earlier said there is no need for the Senate and the House of Representatives to convene in a joint session if the majority of its members agree with the declaration of martial law.

Congress is constitutionally mandated to review a martial law declaration within 48 hours of its proclamation. Voting jointly, both houses of the legislature may revoke or uphold such proclamation through a majority vote in a regular or special session.

In 2009, Congress held a joint session of the House and Senate to hear the justifications of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for declaring martial law in Maguindanao after the massacre of 58 people in Ampatuan town. Arroyo revoked the declaration before Congress could put the matter to a vote.

Alvarez said he supports the President's decision to declare military rule in the southern portion of the country.

"Itong Saligang Batas natin ngayon, hindi kagaya ng Saligang Batas noong araw... Marami nang safeguards na inilagay upang hindi maabuso yung martial law," he said.

(Our Constitution is different now... There are more safeguards in place to ensure that martial law will not be abused.)

"Hindi suspended ang operations ng civil authorities at ng mga korte... Noon sarado ang lahat ng mga himpilan, hindi kagaya ngayon na malaya tayong nakakapag salita," he added.

(Operations of civil authorities and courts were not suspended... Before, all media stations were shut down, unlike now, we still have freedom of speech.)

A member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, meanwhile, said declaring martial law due to terrorist activities may be uncalled for.

"Can we classify the incident in Marawi as a rebellion according to the definition of the Revised Penal Code, which is an uprising against the president with the political purpose of removing allegiance to the constitution," Atty. Christian Monsod said in an interview on radio DZMM.

"If this is not the situation in Marawi, the President can just call on the Armed Forces to suppress lawless powers," he added.

Martial law is a measure that should only be used as a last resort, he said.

Duterte is the third president to declare martial law in the country's modern history after Arroyo in 2009 and Marcos in 1972.