Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Compel Congress to Convene a Joint Session Regarding President Rodrigo Duterte’s Declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao

Wazzup Pilipinas!

Various civil libertarians, Church and student leaders trooped to the Supreme Court on Wednesday to ask the high tribunal to compel Congress to convene a joint session regarding President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of Martial law in Mindanao.

Led by Bishop Broderick Pabillo of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila, the petitioners said that “a plain reading of the 1987 Constitution leads to the indubitable conclusion that a joint session of Congress to review a declaration of Martial Law by the President is mandatory.” They said that failure to convene a joint session “deprives the public of transparent proceedings within which to be informed of the factual bases of the declaration of Martial law.”

Meanwhile, Former senator Wigberto “Bobby” Tañada, a co-petitioner, and who was also the leader of the "Magnificent 12", the group of senators who successfully voted to reject the United States military bases treaty, explained that Congress’ failure to convene a joint session deprived lawmakers of a deliberative and interrogatory process to review Martial law. The petitioners also asserted that the framers of the constitution intended that a joint session of Congress be convened immediately after the declaration of Martial law.

“Erroneous information”

The petitioners filed the petition amid accusations that there were erroneous information in the President’s report submitted to Congress regarding his Martial law declaration. The petitioner said that because of this, the holding of joint session becomes more imperative.

"Snowballing protest"

The other petitioners were prominent Catholic church leaders such as Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Iniguez, Bishop Antonio Tobias, D.D. and Mother Adelaida Ygrubay of the Order of St. Benedict. This marked the first open challenge of the Catholic Church leadership to President Duterte’s Martial law, and is part of a snowballing of protests against Congress’s failure to hold a joint session to deliberate the factual bases of the Martial law declaration.

Last Monday, several congressmen filed a petition before the high court to question the legality of President Duterte’s Martial law declaration. On Tuesday, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, former Senator Rene Saguisag, former Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales, former peace negotiator Alex Padilla and former Representative Barry Gutierrez, along with more than 300 lawyers, filed a separate petition before the high court to compel Congress to convene a joint session.

“Meeting of two generations”

For her part, Shamah Bulangis, Secretary-general of Akbayan-youth, and also a co-petitioner, said that their act of seeking relief before the high court is a “meeting of two generations” fighting for democracy and civil liberties. “We millennials are honored to stand side by side with Senator Tañada and our Catholic bishops in the collective defense of our democracy from creeping authoritarianism. This is our way of thanking them for fighting tyranny during their time so that our generation may live as free citizens. Today, we honor them by standing up against those who want to drag us back to a dark and tyrannical past.”

The filing was initiated by the Gathering for Civil Liberties (GCL), a multi-tendency, multi-form and multi-sectoral loose formation organized by different personalities, human rights crusaders, sectoral leaders and social activists to provide safe and informal spaces to consolidate voices, perspectives and initiatives to promote democratic values and vigilance amid threats of creeping authoritarianism.

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