Duterte calls Congress to special session on martial law extension

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Alvarez Fariñas
House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. File photograph from Philippine Star.

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE – 7:29 a.m., July 18, 2017) President Rodrigo Duterte has called Congress to a special session on Saturday, July 22, “necessitated by the exigency to deliberate on the possible extension of the period of effectivity of Proclamation 216, which will end next week,” his spokesman confirmed Monday night after legislators first broke the news.

“Congress has to discuss and consider the actual parameters to extend martial law and (the) suspension of the (privilege of the) writ of habeas corpus,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.

Word of the special session was first broached by House of Representatives Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas who sent out this text message:

NOTICE TO ALL MEMBERS:
The President will call the Congress to a Special Session on Saturday, Jul 22, 2017, at 9am, to consider the extension of Martial Law. See you, please! Thank you!!

Duterte is expected to submit a formal communication to the Senate and the House for the extension of the martial law declaration covering the entire island of Mindanao, which he issued on May 23, soon after fighting broke out between extremist gunmen and government forces in Marawi City.

Earlier, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police recommended the extension, saying the 60-day period was not sufficient to quell the Maute terrorist group that attacked Marawi City.

Although the military said the area still held by the extremists has been reduced to hundreds of square meters, combat remains fierce and officials remain unsure if they can retake the city before Duterte’s second state of the nation address on Monday, July 24.

Through Proclamation 216, the President placed the Mindanao under martial law and suspended the writ of habeas corpus on May 23.

The House and the Senate issued separate resolutions backing the proclamation.

The special session was called for the extension because Congress is currently on recess. The second regular session of the 17th Congress will open on July 24.

In a statement, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr., a member of the opposition, said lawmakers should be given time “to be apprised by the AFP or Malacañang of the situation in Marawi and the entire island of Mindanao before we even consider an extension.”

Sana magkaroon ng sapat na talakayan. At hindi ‘yung ipipilit na ipasa agad sa araw na iyon (We hope to be favored by substantive discussion and not to have the matter rammed through on that day),” he said.

Anakpawis party-list Rep. Ariel Casilao said, “Anakpawis will consistently register its opposition if ever the President requests Congress for the extension of martial law.”