- About Us
Congress sets joint session on martial law Tuesday
In The Press Posted on December 7th, 2009.
The two chambers of Congress will debate the legality of the imposition of martial law in Maguindanao in a joint session on Tuesday afternoon at the earliest.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Monday said 19 senators who had attended a closed-door caucus earlier in the day had voted for the conduct of the joint session.
Members of the House of Representatives also agreed on the same thing, according to Speaker Prospero Nograles.
"The caucus has decided that we will join the joint session initiated by the Senate. We cannot agree to concur or revoke [the declaration] unless we have the facts," Nograles said.
Congress leaders will meet at 8 p.m. on Monday at the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel to discuss the rules that will govern the joint session.
At present, there are no specific rules on the conduct of joint sessions on martial law under the respective rules of the two chambers.
Nograles said Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita would be invited to explain President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's report, while Enrile said Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales and Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera would also be present.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said that after deliberations, the lawmakers would then decide if they will revoke Proclamation 1959, shorten or lengthen its imposition.
Proclamation 1959 was imposed upon the province two weeks after the November 23 massacre that left at least 57 people dead, including 30 journalists. Members of the Ampatuans, a powerful political clan that used to be closely allied with President Arroyo, are being tagged as suspects in the mass murder.
Under the law, the President must submit to Congress in person or in writing a report within 48 hours of the declaration of martial law. Congress, voting jointly, may revoke the proclamation with a majority vote.
With 268 House members and 24 senators, at least 147 votes are needed to revoke Proclamation 1959, said Nograles, who earlier in the day filed a resolution expressing support for martial rule in Maguindanao.
"Obviously we do not have the numbers in the Senate, but our members wanted to voice their sentiments on the issue. If we lose in the voting, so be it," Zubiri said.
Opposition at the House
At the House, two resolutions seeking to revoke Proclamation 1959 have been filed: House Resolution 1528 by Akbayan Representatives Risa Hontiveros Baraquel and Walden Bello, and Joint Resolution 52 by the progressive party-list bloc, which includes Bayan Muna Representatives Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casino, Neri Colmenares; Gabriela Representatives Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan; Anakpawis Representatives Rafael Mariano and Joel Maglunsod; and Kabataan Rep. Raymond Palatino.
HR 1528 questioned Proclamation 1959, saying it had no basis. "The existence of firearms in the custody of the Ampatuans is not tantamount to staging a public uprising or an actual rebellion warranting a declaration of martial law."
Joint Resolution 52, meanwhile, said: "The imposition of martial law in Maguindanao is not only without constitutional and factual basis but is also an overkill considering the presence of 4,000 members of the Armed Forces in the province and the arrest of many of the Ampatuans under Proclamation 1946 declaring a state of emergency in Central Mindanao, which has not been lifted up to now."
Around 50 militants picketed in front of the Batasan Pambansa earlier in the day to protest the declaration of martial law.
Bayan Muna and Partido Lakas ng Masa protesters chanted "Never Again to Martial Law!" outside the complex's south wing gate, and urged lawmakers to revoke Proclamation 1959.
"Such unwarranted proclamation as 1959 brings serious implications on the rights of every Filipino. Similar scenarios of violence and turmoil can be manufactured by agents serving the Arroyo regime, to effect a no-elections or a martial law situation in 2010, for Arroyo to suppress critics and perpetuate her hold on power," Bayan Muna said in a statement.
The protesters burned papers marked "Proclamation 1959" as a symbol of their opposition to the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, which paved the way for warrantless arrests by the government in Maguindanao. - LBG/RSJ/KBK, GMANews.TV