House to meet as committee of whole to tackle martial law report

Armored Personnel Carriers drive to the frontline in the continuing assaults to retake control of some areas of Marawi city Sunday, May 28, 2017 in southern Philippines. Philippine forces launched fresh airstrikes Sunday to drive out militants linked to the Islamic State group after days of fighting left corpses in the streets and hundreds of civilians begging for rescue from a besieged southern city.

MANILA — The House of Representatives would constitute itself into a Committee of the Whole House this Wednesday to tackle President Rodrigo Duterte’s report on the imposition of martial law in Mindanao.

During plenary, the lower House by viva voce approved Majority Leader Rudy Fariñas’ motion for the chamber to constitute itself into a Committee of the Whole House on Wednesday, May 31, at 9 a.m.

This after Duterte’s martial law report was referred to the committee on rules during Monday’s session.

According to Section 137, Rule XVIII of the Rules of the House, the lower House may constitute itself into a Committee of the Whole House upon the motion of the Majority Leader to act upon a bill or resolution.

Fariñas was appointed by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez as chairperson to preside the proceedings.

According to the Rules, the House may constitute itself into a Committee of the Whole, which functions as one committee acting upon a bill or resolution, and conducts its proceedings like a regular committee with its membership composed of all the Members of the House.

Fariñas said the Committee of the Whole could decide whether or not to hold an executive session depending on the issues to be discussed.

Fariñas said the following Cabinet officials would be invited in the Committee of the Whole House hearing at the plenary hall: Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre III, Transportation Secretary Mark Villar, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, Interior and Local Government officer in charge Catalino Cuy, Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, Information and Communications Technology Rodolfo Salalima, national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor Mujiv Hataman, Court Administrator Midas Marquez, and the Commission on Human Rights chairperson Chito Gascon.

In opposing the motion, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the 1987 Constitution mandates Congress to convene in a joint session to revoke the president’s martial law declaration, and not for Congress to constitute itself into a Committee of the Whole.
He added that holding an executive session with the Committee of the Whole would deprive their constituents their right to be informed of the President’s martial law imposition in Mindanao.

“This process of having a Committee of a Whole in executive session will deprive the public to know exactly what were the reasons why martial law was imposed,” Lagman said.

Speaker Alvarez and Majority Leader Fariñas earlier said there is no need for Congress to convene if it has no intention of revoking the martial law declaration in Mindanao.

Duterte said he would not listen to Congress or the Supreme Court, even though these were the checks and balances on the martial law declaration in the 1987 Constitution.

Under the 1987 Constitution, the President is required to submit to Congress within 48 hours a report on the martial law declaration. Congress voting jointly may then vote to revoke the martial law declaration in a majority vote.

Both Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and majority leader Fariñas, Duterte’s staunchest allies, said Congress need not convene jointly sans a concurrent resolution calling for a joint session.

Alvarez said Congress need not vote to revoke the martial law because it is the President’s mandate to declare martial law in case of invasion or rebellion.

Duterte declared martial law and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao following the attack of the Maute group in Marawi City, where buildings were burnt, people taken hostage, and flags of the Islamic State (IS) hoisted in the siege carried out by the IS-inspired terror group.

Duterte warned that his orders would be shoot to kill, and that warrantless arrests could be carried out in Mindanao following his declaration. He also warned that martial law there would be no different and as harsh as that declared by the dictator Marcos.

The President even said he is considering imposing martial law nationwide if terror groups inspired by IS gain a foothold in Luzon and Visayas.

According to the 1987 Constitution, the president as commander-in-chief of all armed forces may declare martial law or suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus to “prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion ” for 60 days subject to approval of Congress.

“In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law,” the Constitution stated.

The President is required to report within 48 hours about the declaration of martial law to Congress, which may vote jointly to revoke the proclamation in a majority vote.

“Within forty-eight hours from the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, the President shall submit a report in person or in writing to the Congress. The Congress, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its Members in regular or special session, may revoke such proclamation or suspension, which revocation shall not be set aside by the President,” it added.

Congress may also extend the proclamation or suspension of martial law upon the initiative of the President “if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it,” the Constitution stated.

The Supreme Court may also review the need for a declaration of martial law or suspension of the privilege of writ of habeas corpus upon an appropriate proceeding filed by a concerned citizen.

The Constitution states that a state of martial law “does not suspend the operation of the Constitution, nor supplant the functioning of the civil courts or legislative assemblies, nor authorize the conferment of jurisdiction on military courts and agencies over civilians where civil courts are able to function, nor automatically suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.”