House convenes Committee of the Whole for martial law review

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 29 2017 09:34 PM

MANILA - The House of Representatives has constituted a Committee of the Whole that will meet 9 a.m. Wednesday to review the President's declaration of martial law in the Mindanao group of Islands.

House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, designated chairman of the committee of the whole, moved to convene the committee after meeting the Rules Committee to discuss the President's report on the martial law declaration. 

"I move that the House be constituted into the committee of the whole in order for the House to conduct the executive briefing with the various heads of agencies in relation to Proclamation No. 216," he said on Monday. 

The convening of the committee came after an ayes and nayes vote that was triggered by the objections of ACT Teachers' Party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman. 

Tinio and Lagman had both wanted to instead convene a joint session of Congress.

Lagman had argued that a committee of the whole which may be conducted in an executive session will deprive the public of the right to know, and the political opposition the right to examine the declaration. 

Lagman said a committee of the whole is not what is required by the constitution but a joint session. 

"This process of having a committee of the whole in executive session will deprive the public to know exactly what were the reasons why martial law was imposed and it will also deny the political opposition and the members of the super majority who are like-minded the chance to expose the merits, the factual validity of the imposition of martial law," he said.

Fariñas, however, argued that an executive session may be needed should the executive branch be asked to discuss operational details. 

"We are a bicameral Congress, we convene separately. The Senate already took up this measure and they met in executive session. Why in executive session? Because we will be listening to the commanders on the ground, they will be briefing us where the enemies are, what are their courses of action, what are their kinds of action [which] we cannot announce to the public. That's why initially, we will have a committee of the whole so that everyone will hear," he explained.

"We will listen first to them. When the testimony will be delicate, then we will exclude everybody," he added.

Fariñas summoned Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, DPWH Secretary Mark Villar, DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello, DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, DOH Secretary Paulyn Rosell Ubial, DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez, DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, OIC DILG Catalino Cuy, DOT Secretary Wanda Tulfo Teo, DOTR Secretary Art Tugade, DOE Secretary Alfonso Cusi, DICT Secretary Rodolfo Salalima and NSA Hermogenes Esperon from the Cabinet; ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman; Court Administrator Midas Marquez; and the Commission of Human Rights to Wednesday's session.