MANILA, Philippines — Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez warned of a possible “constitutional crisis” and threatened to “tear up” any order from the Supreme Court for Congress to convene in joint session to tackle President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
“Kung mag–i-issue ng direktiba ang SC telling Congress na ‘mag-convene kayo in joint session,’ punitin ko ‘yan. Kalokohan ‘yan (If the SC issues a directive telling Congress to ‘convene in joint session,’ I’ll tear it up. That is foolish),” Alvarez said.
“How can the SC dictate on Congress what to do? It’s a co-equal body,” he said in an interview.
Two petitions have so far been filed asking the Supreme Court to order the Senate and the House of Representatives to meet in joint session to discuss Proclamation No. 216, which placed the whole of Mindanao under martial law after clashes broke out in Marawi City between the Maute group and government forces on May 23.
Another petition, filed by opposition lawmakers, asks the high court to nullify Proclamation 216, which also suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.
The fighting in Marawi, which has killed scores, is now entering its third week.
Alvarez said the Office of the Solicitor General will respond to the petitions on behalf of the House.
“Our position is that the SC has no jurisdiction over that,” he said.
Asked what would happen if the petitions are granted, Alvarez replied: “Talagang magkakaroon ng constitutional crisis, at hindi namin kasalanan ‘yan (There will really be a constitutional crisis, and it won’t be our fault).”
“Basta kami, hindi kami susunod kung ano ang sasabihin ng SC kasi wala silang karapatan na diktahan ang Kongreso kung ano ang dapat naming gawin (As far as we’re concerned, we will not follow what the SC says because they have no right to dictate on Congress what we should do),” he added.
Both chambers, dominated by a pro-administration “super majority,” have ignored calls to hold a joint session, arguing that this is not what the Constitution requires. Instead, they merely approved a resolution backing Proclamation 216.
The leadership of both chambers maintain that a joint session is necessary only to revoke the declaration of martial law or extend it beyond 60 days.