No joint session on martial law is a cover-up, say opposition lawmakers

Rambo Talabong
No joint session on martial law is a cover-up, say opposition lawmakers
Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman says the majority want to hide the discussion from the public because the martial law declaration has no basis

MANILA, Philippines — Opposition lawmakers gathered on Monday, May 29, to oppose the dropping of the joint session of Congress to discuss the ongoing martial law in Mindanao, saying that it is a move to cover the declaration from being exposed as being groundless. 

Bakit ayaw nila? Gusto nilang itago sa publiko at sa media kung ano talaga ang pag-uusapan, ang pagdedebatehan sa joint session na ipapalabas ng minority na walang basehan, walang factual basis ang declaration ang martial law,” Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman said.

(Why don’t they [want to convene]? They want to hide from the public and the media what really is going to be discussed wherein the minority will expose that the declaration of martial law [in Mindanao] has no factual basis.)

This comes after the House of Representatives declared to forego jointly convening with the Senate over Duterte’s Proclamation Number 216 which was prompted by the continuing clashes in Marawi. (READ: TIMELINE: Marawi clashes prompt martial law in all of Mindanao)

Critics from both chambers of Congress and civil society were quick to condemn the decision. (READ: No joint session on martial law? Congress ‘shields’ Duterte)

Since then, the House of Representatives has been eyeing on convening over the law through an executive session where media will be barred, and the lawmakers will be forbidden to disclose updates from the assembly.

Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin added that there may be other “long-term” reasons why other members of the Congress would choose to have the discussions held with closed doors.

“It is pushing for abolishing the 1987 Constitution in the guise of federalism, but the agenda really is to do away with our Constitution where this is an anti-dictatorship, anti-martial law constitution,”

Lagman said that even if the majority is decided in permitting the law, he stressed that conducting a public session will ensure transparency.

In the upper chamber of Congress, Senator Risa Hontiveros announced that she is already planning on filing a resolution to force the legislative branch of the government to jointly convene “with or without” the support of the majority.

“We are saying one big ‘no’ over the creeping authoritarianism of President Rodrigo Duterte,” said Hontiveros, a member of the Senate’s minority. “I invite the minority lawmakers and the independent-minded members of the majority to be one with us.”

Meanwhile, defenders of martial law in Mindanao said that the proclamation is needed in the terror-struck region and the revised 1987 Constitution would prevent any abuse of power from happening. (READ: Who’s afraid of martial law… in Mindanao?)

Gathering for civil liberties

The lawmakers gave the group interview at the “Gathering for Civil Liberties,” the launch of a multi-sectoral group seeking to provide “safe and informal space” for discussions for political critique.

The movement is headed by Hontiveros, where she is joined by other notable figures such as former congressman Bobby Tañada, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, and former Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales.

Civic groups were also present in the gathering, including Konsensyang Dabaw, Cebu Coalition Against Marcos Burial, Coalition Against Marcos Burial (CAMB) and student council leaders from different universties and colleges.

The gathering is set to be the first among many huddles to tackle the socio-political atmosphere of the country. – 

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.