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‘Congress vote on martial law unlikely in 24 hours’
In The Press Posted on December 10th, 2009.
The southern province of Maguindanao may remain under martial law for at least four more days as Congress is unlikely to put the matter to a vote when it resumes its joint session on Thursday afternoon, House Speaker Prospero Nograles said.
The joint session on Wednesday took nearly seven hours. With the Senate and the House allotted with a maximum of 10 hours each to question government officials on the declaration of martial law in the province, the two chambers of Congress still have more than 13 hours combined time for interpellation when it resumes the joint session at 2 p.m.
Asked whether senators and congressmen would likely pull an all-night session on Proclamation 1959, Nograles said: "Maybe Monday next session."
"Tomorrow, Friday, [and on] weekend, everyone goes back to their districts," he added in a text message.
Earlier in the day, former Justice Secretary and incumbent Presidential Adviser on Legal Affairs Raul Gonzalez said lawmakers should do away with "boring" questions and immediately put to a vote Proclamation 1959, which placed Maguindanao under martial rule and suspended the writ of habeas corpus within the province except for certain areas. [See: End dull questions on martial law and vote now, Congress told]
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued Proclamation 1959 nearly two weeks after the November 23 massacre that killed at least 57 people, including 30 journalists. Some members of the powerful Ampatuan clan, closely allied with the Arroyo administration before the massacre, have since been arrested and charged.Congress in a joint session can revoke the proclamation with a majority vote. With 268 House members and 23 senators, at least 147 votes are needed to lift martial law in Maguindanao.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, Philippine National Police chief Director General Jesus Verzosa, Armed Forces chief General Victor Ibrado are expected to return to the plenary to answer queries from lawmakers regarding the President's written report on Proclamation 1959.
Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales, who was absent during Wednesday's joint session as he was in Singapore, is expected to show up at Thursday's session.
Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza, who is set to interpellate once the joint session resumes, called on her colleagues to revoke the proclamation and reminded them that December 10 is International Human Rights Day.
“Justice for the 57 victims of the brutal killings dims as days pass with Martial law in Maguindanao still in place. With her unspeakable track record, she will absolutely use this occasion to further her self-seeking agenda at the expense of the Filipino people," Maza said in a statement.
The joint session on martial law, which began 4 p.m. Wednesday and was suspended shortly before 11 p.m, is the first in Philippine history. Martial law has also not been declared in any part of the country since the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos placed the entire country under martial law in September 1972. - LBG/RSJ, GMANews.TV