CONGRESS is set to hold a joint session on Wednesday, Dec. 12, to deliberate on the request of President Rodrigo R. Duterte to again extend martial law in Mindanao for another year.
“Joint session, Wednesday, nine o’clock,” Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III confirmed to reporters on Monday.
Senators were briefed yesterday by security officials on the situation in Mindanao and the factors that would justify a third extension of martial law, which was first declared on May 23, 2017 as the Marawi siege broke out.
“I think they were able to present some very compelling reasons for us to really consider the extension so we’ll discuss it within ourselves and then hopefully, let’s see how the debate goes as far as the Wednesday joint session is concerned,” Mr. Sotto told reporters after the hearing.
Meanwhile, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto said he is of the position that martial law could only be extended until six months given that the 17th Congress ends in June 2019.
“Our term of office is only until June. And this Congress extends martial law beyond this term… What is appealing is that they’re saying that they would be able wipe out the Abu Sayyaf with the one year extension… That is an appealing proposition to extend martial law. But then why not six months?” he said.
“If at all, maybe six months, at least (that’s) my position. And let the next Congress determine if they need six more months,” he added.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri also released to reporters Mr. Duterte’s letter to Congress, dated Dec. 6, asking the legislative branch for the martial law extension.
“A further extension of the implementation of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao will enable the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines), the PNP (Philippine National Police), and all other law enforcement agencies to finally put an end to the ongoing rebellion in Mindanao and continue to prevent the same from escalating in other parts of the country,” Mr. Duterte said in his letter to Congress.
Under the 1987 Constitution, the President can declare martial law in case of “invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it.” An extension of martial law may be approved by Congress, in a joint vote of at least majority of its members, “if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.”
After the initial martial law declaration that was effective for 60 days as provided under the law, Congress granted a first extension until end-Dec. 2017, then a second one until end-2018. — Camille A. Aguinaldo