MANILA - House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Wednesday rallied his colleagues to back President Rodrigo Duterte's move to place Mindanao under martial law, even before the Executive branch presented its report on the declaration.
"Colleagues, let us extend to the President the aid which he needs. Let us also do our part and legislate lasting solutions to the problems we face. We owe this to the people of Marawi City. We owe this to the people of Mindanao. We owe this to the people of the Philippines," Alvarez said.
He also reminded his colleagues that their decision will determine the trajectory of future response to the terror threats.
"My fellow colleagues, let us remember that how we decide today will determine the trajectory of our response to the grave threats posed by terror groups - the Mautes included - that has rampaged the peaceful City of Marawi and the people of Mindanao," he said.
He also told his colleagues to refrain from dwelling on the atrocities committed under the previous martial law declarations.
"Will our collective response extend a helping hand to our Commander-in-Chief and, consequently, empower him to decisively destroy the delusional terror dreams of these extremist groups? Or will our response be to view the occasion from ivory towers and, while disconnected from the realities on the ground, choose to chain the hands of the President at a time when he needs our full support the most?" he said.
As the House Committee of the Whole convened to discuss the ongoing martial rule, Alvarez asserted that lawmakers need to deal a strategic and decisive response against terror threats.
"We have to do this, not only because the dangers we face have devastated the lives of thousands. We have to do this, not only because these threats can easily spill over and engulf the rest of the nation in flames. We have to do this, because it is the right thing to do," he said.
Duterte last week declared martial law in Mindanao after Maute and Abu Sayyaf fighters attacked the southern city of Marawi.
The House Speaker reminded the executive branch that the crisis cannot be solved by military might alone.
"Besides military action, we have to address the historical, social, economic, and political roots of the problem. After all, the most potent weapon against terrorism, insurgencies, and rebellion is nation building," he said.
He also assured the public that the Congress will watch over the implementation of martial law and provide check and balance when needed.
The House Committee of the Whole convened at 9 a.m., presided by House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas and Senior Deputy Majority Leader LIto Atienza.
Farinas laid the following ground rules: resource spokespersons should finish briefings before answering questions; each member gets 5 minutes to pose questions; a 2nd round maybe held if necessary; and adjournment will be at 3 p.m.
The executive branch officials were placed under oath before Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea opened the briefings.
Duterte, through General Order (GO) 1, has designated Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana as martial law administrator and military chief of staff Eduardo Año as implementer of martial law.
The GO mandates officials to undertake all measures to suppress all acts of rebellion. It does not suspend the Constitution despite the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.