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Congress leaders to decide review process.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III on Thursday said he would meet with House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to decide how Congress should review President Rodrigo Duterte's Proclamation No. 216 placing all of Mindanao under martial law for 60 days and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus on the island in response to an attack on Marawi City by terrorists linked to the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in the Middle East.

Alvarez said on Wednesday that in compliance with the 1987 Constitution, a joint session of Congress would review the proclamation and then vote whether to approve or revoke it.

Pimentel disagreed, telling reporters in a phone patch interview from Davao City on Thursday that a joint session would be needed only if Congress intended to revoke the proclamation.

'My opinion from a deeper study of it is a joint session will only become necessary if we intend to revoke. Because that is important as we will immediately put a stop to martial law,' he said.

'[I]f we do not intend to put a stop and then we hold a joint session, what for? There is also no need to approve [the proclamation] because it's immediately executory and it's being implemented,' he said. 'If it is to revoke, then we must schedule the joint session.'

Pimentel said he hoped to meet Alvarez in Davao on Thursday.

Alvarez appears to have changed his mind about a joint session, saying on Thursday that it was not necessary for the two chambers of Congress to sit together to review the declaration.

And he does not see the need for immediate House action on the proclamation.

'I don't see anything in the Constitution that requires that,' Alvarez said.

48-hour requirement

Under the 1987 Constitution, the President must report to Congress in person or in writing within 48 hours of declaring martial law. Congress may then affirm or revoke it through a joint vote.

Mr. Duterte sent copies of his proclamation to the House and the Senate on Wednesday night.

Pimentel and Alvarez received copies of Mr. Duterte's report in Davao City on Thursday night.

He said Alvarez had approved an invitation to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Cabinet members, particularly the heads of Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of National Defense, to appear before the House at 9 a.m. on May 31.

The officials will be questioned about Mr. Duterte's report, Farinas said.

He said the security briefing would be an executive session at the session hall, with the congressmen sitting as the committee of the whole.

Closed-door session

Being an executive session, the briefing will be closed to the public and the press.

Congress held a public joint session in 2009 to hear the report of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who placed Maguindanao under martial law through Proclamation No. 1959 on Dec. 4 that year as government forces pursued suspects in the murders of 58 people in the province in the worst election violence in Philippine history.

Arroyo lifted martial law after nine days.

Farinas said he could not immediately say if Mr. Duterte's report would be released to the public, as the President could make it a classified document.

Alvarez said Mindanao would be under martial law for 60 days unless Congress wanted to shorten or extend the duration of the imposition.

He said the House might discuss Mr. Duterte's proclamation during its plenary session next week, but did not promise that it would.

'We have session next week and we may lay it out and discuss it,' he said.

Congress adjourns on June 2. It returns on the last Monday of July to hear Mr. Duterte's State of the Nation report.

Senate caucus

Most senators shared Pimentel's view. Among them was Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who said on Thursday that 'no confirmation of the proclamation was required by Congress.'

'The Constitution says that Congress may, voting jointly by all its members, revoke the proclamation, which means that if we don't revoke it, it continues for 60 days. Before the end of 60 days, Congress may extend it, so that's when we vote again. So right now, the martial law declaration is valid unless revoked by Congress,' Drilon told reporters.

Pimentel said he would call a caucus of the majority bloc for the weekend to hear the opinion of its members then a caucus of the whole Senate on Monday for a discussion of the matter.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:May 26, 2017
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