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Right thing to do, says Congress

CONGRESS may extend the proclamation or suspension of martial law for a determined period of time if the rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it upon the initiative of the President, senators said Wednesday,

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III also said Congress, voting jointly, may also revoke such a proclamation by a vote from a majority of all its members.

As provided by the Constitution, Congress must await the President’s report, which must be sent within 48 hours of the proclamation, in which he will justify the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire island of Mindanao under martial law Tuesday night for 60 days following the siege by the Maute gang of Marawi City.

Pimentel, who was in Moscow with the President, also cut short his visit and issued a statement condemning the acts of terror in Marawi City.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said they will find out from the President’s report the factual basis of such declaration.

“I will request that the senators be given a separate briefing on what are the circumstances that led to the declaration. I think that would be useful so that we could fully understand the premises or the basis, because we get conflicting reports like, I heard the AFP spokesman say that everything is under control. If it’s under control, why was martial law declared? We don’t want to come to any conclusion until, at the very least, we get a report as required by the Constitution,” said Drilon.

Although Congress has the power to revoke the declaration, Drilon said there must be a factual basis for this decision.

Senator JV Ejercito said he would vote on whether to revoke or extend the declaration based on “the welfare and interest of Mindanaoans and the people of the Republic of the Philippines.”

In the House, lawmakers led by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Wednesday rallied behind President Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

Alvarez said the President’s declaration on martial law was the right thing to do, noting that safeguards are provided under the 1987 Constitution.

“As a Mindanaoan I fully believe that the declaration of the President has basis,” Alvarez told reporters.

Alvarez noted that under the Constitution the President has the authority to put any area of the country under martial law or even the entire Philippines if necessary for the safety of the public.

Alvarez said there is no need for Congress to convene in a joint session if there is no stiff opposition to the declaration.

Under the Constitution, there is a need for Congress to convene on the matter if lawmakers will either revoke the declaration or extend martial law.

Alvarez said that while the violence erupted only in Marawi City, terrorist groups are likely lurking in other areas of Mindanao and possibly in other areas of the country too.

“I think [the terrorists] are everywhere. I am sure everywhere in Mindanao and if not in the entire Philippines,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez also allayed concerns over possible abuse of authority as a consequence of the declaration of martial law.

House Minority Leader and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez said the attack by members of the ISIS-inspired Maute terror group in Marawi City was due to an intelligence failure.

Suarez also supported the President’s martial law declaration in Mindanao, adding that Mr. Duterte has no ulterior motive and that such declaration was intended to avoid further chaos and anarchy.

Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, House committee on rules chairman, said the House is ready anytime to approve the martial law declaration.

SCENES OF A SIEGE. Residents flee from Marawi City on Wednesday after armed members of the ISIS-inspired Maute terror group invaded the city even as policemen check evacuees aboard a van at a checkpoint at the entrance of Iligan City in Mindanao. At right, members of the Special Operation Group of the Philippine Coast Guard board a military truck which will travel via a military boat to Marawi City to augment the government troops in the area. Norman Cruz /Lance Baconguis/AFP

Fariñas also advised his colleagues to stay in Manila for possible convening of Congress in a joint session.

Sulu Rep. Munir Arbison blamed the local officials in his province, accusing some of them of protecting the Abu Sayyaf.

“I renew the call for Senate inquiry on the alleged connivance between Sulu local officials and the ASG so that we will be able to neutralize not only the terrorists but also their protectors and coddlers,” Arbison said.

Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu, Camarines Sur Rep. Lray Villafuerte, Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers and Parañaque City Rep. Gus Tambunting also backed the declaration of martial law.

“The quick and decisive moves taken thus far by the President is a clear signal to all that the government is on top of the situation and is capable of--and determined--to protect the citizenry and businesses by stopping lawless elements from further spreading fear and violence in the South,” Villafuerte, House committee on national defense vice chairman, said.

Abu said the people should rally behind President Duterte’s decision to place Mindanao under martial law to finally solve terrorism and other security concerns in the South.

“The political will and the strong determination of the Chief Executive will bring us to peace and progress. He is only for the protection and preservation of the republic, nothing more. Let’s pray for the safety of our brothers and sisters in Marawi City and Mindanao and the immediate resolution of this crisis,” said Abu.

Barbers, House committee on dangerous drugs chairperson, said “it’s high time for authorities to shift from being reactive to taking proactive measures. Numerous people, both civilians and members of the military, have been injured in the current onslaught and in other recent terror attacks,” he said. With Sandy Araneta, Rio N. Araja, Vito Barcelo and Lance Baconguis

But Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano, who filed an impeachment complaint against the President, said the declaration of martial law was worrisome. He urged the people to be vigilant and make sure that martial law is not abused.

His ally in the Senate, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, said Duterte was “trigger happy” when he delared martial law.

He also said there was no spillover of fighting from Marawi City to other parts of Mindanao, and that martial law over the entire island was not warranted.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Wednesday ordered all courts in Mindanao to remain open following the declaration of martial law.

“In view of the President’s declaration of martial law for 60 days over the entire island of Mindanao, the Chief Justice directs all courts in Mindanao to remain open and all judges to remain in station, as far as their local circumstances may allow,” Sereno said.

The Chief Justice also directed all Mindanao judges to report “their current and continuing status to the Office of the Court Administrator through their executive judges.”

However, Marawi City Executive Judge Wendy Papandayan said she has already ordered the suspension of work in all courts in the city for May 24.

Papandayan said she decided to issue the order to protect court employees, mostly non-Muslims residing in Iligan City, from the dangers of coming to the city.

“Other courts in Lanao del Sur are open but not in Marawi where the battle is going on. It’s a suicide to allow court employees to report to Hall of Justice located inside the City Hall. Most of my staff are non-Muslim residing at Iligan City. I cannot allow them to go to Marawi while people from Marawi are evacuating and leaving Marawi. I will be the most stupid judge if will require them to report,” she said.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines on Wednesday backed President Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

The IBP through its board of directors led by national president Rosario Setias-Reyes said that the martial law proclamation is within the powers of the President under the 1987 Constitution and appears to have valid basis.

Vice President Leni Robredo said the success in the fight against terrorism was a shared responsibility of all, and not just of the government.

Robredo’s statement came following clashes between the military and the Maute terror group in Marawi City.

“We have to understand that this is a terrorist act. And propaganda is one of the weapons of terrorism. We are appealing to all to come together in this time of need,” said Robredo.

“Because the success of this operation, depends not only on our soldiers, but is a shared responsibility of us all.”

“And to urge everyone to be responsible about the information they share. Maybe we have already read a lot. And a lot of the things we read are not true,” Robredo said.

Robredo also urged the people to trust the military in administering martial law in Mindanao.

Militant labor groups, on the other hand, opposed the declaration of martial law.

“Martial law in Mindanao is a disproportionate response to a localized problem. It is like using a gun to kill a fly when a swatter will suffice. The lessons of Philippine history is that martial rule is a problem not a solution as it leads to abuses and dictatorship,” Partido Manggagawa national chairnab Rene Magtubo said. .

In a statement, Magtubo said martial law will affect the exercise of civil liberties and labor rights in Mindanao.

“There have been several labor strikes in Mindanao since last year and also workers’ protest actions against contractualization. Under martial law, the military can be called to suppress such legitimate acts of redress workers’ grievances. It certainly won’t be the first time such happens,” Magtubo said.

The labor group also called on Congress to revoke the declaration of martial in exercise its prerogatives to review the presidential order. – With Sandy Araneta, Rio N. Araja, Vito Barcelo and Lance Baconguis

Topics: Congress , Martial Law , President Rodrigo Duterte , Senators , Senate President Aquilino Pimentel , Constitution , Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon
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