MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said the 17th Congress will not heed the Supreme Court (SC) if it compels them to convene jointly to assess the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
Alvarez made the statement on Thursday, June 8, after two separate petitions before the SC made him and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III as respondents to calls for Congress to convene in a joint session.
The SC already set oral arguments for this petition on July 13, 14, and 15.
“Ah, balikan muna nila ang law books (They should review law books). How can the Supreme Court dictate Congress what to do? Co-equal body ‘yan. O, mag-issue ng direktiba ang Supreme Court telling Congress, dictating Congress na, ‘Uy, mag-convene kayo ng joint session.’ Punitin ko ‘yan (They are co-equal bodies. So if the Supreme Court issues an order dictating Congress to convene, I’ll rip up that order),” said Alvarez.
“Basta kami hindi kami susunod kung ano’ng sabihin ng Supreme Court diyan dahil wala silang karapatan para diktahan ang Kongreso kung ano’ng dapat naming gawin,” added Alvarez, a lawyer who graduated from the Ateneo Law School.
(We won’t follow whatever the Supreme Court will say because they have no right to dictate on Congress.)
Duterte had declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23 after government troops clashed with the Maute Group and the Abu Sayyaf Group in Marawi City.
The 1987 Constitution allows the President to declare martial law for 60 days, but any extension requires the approval of Congress in a joint session. The SC may also review a martial law declaration following an “appropriate proceeding filed by any citizen.”
Senate and House leaders refused to convene in a joint session after Duterte’s declaration, arguing they only need to do so if they intend to revoke or extend martial law.
Both chambers instead received closed-door briefings from national security officials and the Cabinet, leading to separate Senate and House resolutions declaring their support for the martial law in Mindanao.
The lawmakers’ interpretation of the Constitution, however, is not shared by several other politicians, lawyers, and private citizens.
Possible constitutional crisis
When asked what he would do if a constitutional crisis occurs once the 17th Congress ignores an SC order for them to convene, Alvarez had this to say.
“Eh talagang magkakaroon ng constitutional crisis. At hindi namin kasalanan ‘yun.” (There will indeed be a constitutional crisis. But it won’t be our fault.)
He reasoned that meeting in a joint session will just lead to “grandstanding” among lawmakers because the Senate and the House already adopted resolutions supporting martial law.
Alvarez, Davao del Norte 1st District representative, and other Mindanao lawmakers earlier expressed support for the declaration of martial law. The Speaker even told martial law critics to “shut up” if they are not from Mindanao. – Rappler.com