SC asks Congress to explain why they did not convene on martial law

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Represented by Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Congress will have to answer to the Supreme Court (SC) on why they did not convene a joint session to deliberate on martial law.

The SC en banc gave the congressional leadership a non-extendible period of 10 days to submit their comment to the petitions filed by the groups of detained Senator Leila de Lima and former senator Wigberto Tañada. The en banc order was issued last Tuesday, June 13, and released to media on Friday, June 16.

The High Court has also consolidated the two petitions, which assail the continuing refusal of the Senate and the House of Representatives to vote jointly on President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

The upper and lower chambers issued separate resolutions supporting the declaration.

The De Lima group of petitioners – composed of lawyers including former solicitor general Florin Hilbay and constitutionalist Christian Monsod – insists the Constitution's language is clear: Congress is required to convene to either revoke or approve martial law.

Hilbay said Congress cannot just approve the declaration in silence, or without deliberating on the floor on the information, and for the benefit of the public.

The Tañada group of petitioners includes Catholic bishops and student leaders. They said there has to be accountability on the part of lawmakers and their votes should be put on official legislative record.

"The public should have the right to know the position of their legislators with respect to this matter of the highest national interest," said the Tañada group.

Alvarez earlier said Congress will not heed any SC decision on martial law, even saying he will just tear up the order of the High Court. (READ: Congress to ignore any SC martial law order – Alvarez)

The SC is set to issue a decision on or before July 5 on the 3 consolidated petitions seeking to nullify martial law. The petitions were heard by the High Court during 3 days of oral arguments. –

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.