SC asked to rule on bid for Congress to convene as end of 60-day martial law validity looms

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The Supreme Court in Manila. INTERAKSYON FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court was asked Friday to rule on a petition to compel Congress to convene and review President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law over Mindanao before the 60-day validity of Proclamation No. 216, issued on May 23, lapses on July 22.

“Given the imminent lapse of the 60-day deadline for Presidential proclamation No. 216 and the real possibility of its extension, it is all the more imperative for the Honorable Court to resolve the instant case for the guidance of the respondent, state actors, and all Filipinos,” said the manifestation of the petitioners, among whom are former Senator Rene Saguisag, former Philhealth chief Alexander Padilla, former Commission on Human Rights chair Loretta Ann Rosales, detained Senator Leila de Lima, former Commission on Elections chairman Christian Monsod and lawyers led by former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay and former Akbayan representative Barry Gutierrez.

It stressed that “Congress must now fulfill its constitutionally-mandated duty … to convene, deliberate and vote jointly on Presidential Proclamation No. 216,” just as the high court did when it heard but eventually chose to junk petitions asking it to nullify the declaration.

It also noted that the “president’s allies in Congress have themselves signaled the extension of martial law” beyond 60 days “notwithstanding their abdication of their constitutional duty to convene and deliberate on the necessity of Proclamation No. 216.”

Explaining the importance of a joint session to debate martial law, Rosales said this was the proper venue to publicly discuss and determine the validity of Duterte’s basis for the proclamation. She also said should martial law be extended, Congress should be transparent about its reasons for allowing this.

Gutierrez argued that, whether or not martial law is extended, the Constitution requires Congress to convene.

The petitioners also worried that Duterte might exploit his second state of the nation address on July 24 to extend martial law but stressed that, should this happen, they would question this again because the Constitution requires an open deliberation in joint session, not a simple “Yes or No” resolution of the lawmakers.

Hilbay, on the other hand, explained that their petition is not so much against martial law as it is for the respect and implementation of the rule of law.