MANILA - Leftist party-list groups are reevaluating their alliance with the administration, saying President Rodrigo Duterte had "crossed a line" in declaring martial law in Mindanao to quell the terrorist Maute group in Marawi City.
The Makabayan bloc, a group of left-leaning members of the House of Representatives, urged the President to rescind his declaration and vowed to seek its revocation during the Congress review.
"Napaka-seryoso ng pangyayaring ito. We think that with the declaration of martial law, President Duterte has crossed a line," ACT TEACHERS Party List Rep. Antonio Tinio said.
"Kaya kami rin talaga, kailangan namin mag-react at mag-reevaluate sa so-called tactical alliance with this administration," he added.
He said the Makabayan bloc would support the move of their allies, who are preparing to ask the Supreme Court to review the declaration.
Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao said Duterte's declaration would also have a bearing on the peace process with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, which will enter the fifth round of talks before the end of the month in the Netherlands.
"Let's see the result of this coming fifth round. They will definitely present this as an urgent and major issue prior to discussing the agenda at hand. Whatever response of the government will be determined after the 5th round," he said.
Casilao believes the declaration may also be aimed at other armed groups who are not part of the Maute terrorist group, such as communist rebels.
The Makabayan bloc currently counts itself as a member of the super majority in the chamber.
Other majority allies however came to the President's defense.
"There are certain information that are known only to the president and not to us, not even to us members of Congress, precisely because of those security purposes," 1CARE Party List Rep. Carlos Uybaretta said.
"We have just to trust the system. Marami nagsasabi na wala namang rebellion, wala namang invasion. But armchair opinion po iyan because we're not privy to the whole facts available to the president," he added.
AKO Bicol Party List Rep. Rodel Batocabe said Congress may even grant an extension if warranted. The current declaration is only good for a maximum of 60 days, unless revoked sooner or extended by Congress.
"Of course, aaprubahan po ng Kongreso. Ang tanong, in one year may rebellion pa ba? Kung may rebellion pa ba, bakit hindi? Ang nakikita po natin, inatake ang isang siyudad, may mga pinatay… 'Yan sa tingin ko on its face, rebellion. 'Yung [pag-]extend, 'di ko po alam. Ang sinasabi ko lang po, 'wag tayo mabahala, everything is functioning," he said.
Minority lawmaker Kabayan Party List Rep. Harry Roque for his part said the involvement of the Maute Group, which he claimed was a local branch of the Islamic State, made the Marawi City clash "analogous" to an invasion, a ground for the declaration of martial law.
"Itong involvement ng ISIS can be classified as analogous to an invasion. An armed attack now having been classified by the ICJ (International Court of Justice) as the sending not just of regular armed forces but analogous armed forces," he said.
Roque explained that the meaning of invasion already changed under international law after the resolution of the Nicaragua vs. the United States of America case, where the ICJ ruled that even non-state parties were capable of launching an armed attack against a state.
In the ruling, an armed attack is the "sending of regular armed forces or if not regular armed forces of the same scale and scope as if conducted by regular armed forces," according to Roque.
"Invasion within the context of the Constitution contemplates the sending of troops in the Philippines in the context of an armed conflict," he said.
"The president could have also declared martial law on the basis of an analogous invasion because the ISIS now is recognized and involved in an international armed conflict," he added.
The president is mandated by the Constitution to submit to Congress his justification for declaring martial law within 48 hours of his declaration. The legislature will then conduct a review and decide by a majority vote whether to uphold or revoke the declaration.
The executive branch will brief both houses of Congress next week, and the House decided to do theirs in an executive session.
Roque concurred with this decision, explaining that an open session may divulge to terrorists classified information to be discussed.
He insisted on a vote, saying the Constitution required lawmakers to vote to either revoke or affirm the martial law declaration.
"There is a need to vote. It's there because we have to determine sufficiency. Whether we like it or not, we have to vote to revoke or to allow it for 60 days. It has to happen because it is a safeguard," he said.
Roque also conceded that the congressional review of a martial law declaration is one of the few instances where senators and representatives would vote together.
"In this instance, we don't know, you don't know how the House will vote. Let's just say mathematically, the House vote will determine whether or not Congress will revoke it. 'Di naman sila (senators) irrelevant, pwede naman sila magsalita," said Roque, noting that the House had more members than the Senate.
Roque backed the declaration even if he is a known human rights advocate, who also opposed the declaration of martial law in 2009 during the Arroyo administration.
"The bottom line is that the President has access to information that is only available to him as Commander-in-Chief. I am not in the position to second-guess him," he said.