Opposition senators seek joint session on martial law

Camille Elemia
Opposition senators seek joint session on martial law
The joint congressional session is needed to check the 'validity of the proclamation' and to 'prevent abuses,' all 6 minority senators say in a resolution

MANILA, Philippines – Nearly a week after President Rodrigo Duterte issued Proclamation No. 216, the Senate minority bloc filed a resolution calling for a joint congressional session to assess the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

The 6-member minority bloc on Monday, May 29, filed Senate Resolution 390, which also seeks to discuss the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, enabling the military to make arrests in Mindanao without court intervention. (READ: Martial Law 101: Things you should know)

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon as well as senators Francis Pangilinan, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Leila de Lima, Antonio Trillanes IV, and Risa Hontiveros filed the measure. Except for Trillanes and Hontiveros, the rest are members of the Liberal Party.

Citing Section 18, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution, the minority bloc said Congress “has the sacred duty” to seek information about the proclamation and to assess its basis.

They also cited a 2012 Supreme Court decision (Fortun v Macapagal-Arroyo), which states that the executive and the legislative “act in tandem” in proclaiming martial law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

The dark chapter under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, the senators said, prompted the limits to the President’s power.

For the sake of transparency and accountability, the opposition said the Senate and the House of Representatives should conduct a joint session. (READ: No joint session on martial law? Congress ‘shields’ Duterte)

The resolution states: “Pursuant to the constitutional mandates of transparency and accountability in government, respecting the right of the citizen to information of public interest, and the fundamental underlying principle of checks and balances amongst the separate branches of government, it is incumbent upon both the Senate and the House of Representatives to conduct a joint session for the purpose of determining the constitutional and factual validity of the proclamation, of preventing abuses in its implementation, and ensuring the safety of the people of Marawi and the whole of Mindanao.”

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said the chamber will tackle the resolution on Tuesday, May 30, as Monday’s session was only opened and then closed as a show of respect for the late senator Eva Estrada-Kalaw.

Congress, filled with Duterte’s allies, is so far not keen on convening to discuss the martial law declaration. Congress leaders also earlier said it is “unlikely” that they would revoke Duterte’s proclamation.

In December 2009, a joint public session was convened at least thrice after then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared martial law in Maguindanao following the Maguindanao massacre. – Rappler.com 

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com