The Congress of the Philippines meets today in a special and joint session to consider President Duterte’s call for it to extend his proclamation of martial law in Mindanao and his suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. There is no doubt that Congress will grant the extension.
The Supreme Court has already spoken out on the issue of martial law. It ruled last July 4 that the Maute attack in Marawi City on May 23, supported by international fighters of the Islamic State, is a rebellion that threatened public safety. It thus ruled against three petitions opposing the proclamation.
Under the Constitution, the other body that has a say on martial law is Congress which could revoke it by majority vote in joint voting by all the senators and congressmen. Congress did not see the need for a joint session to vote on the proclamation. But now it has to meet and vote on the President’s call for an extension, as it seems the danger is likely to persist after the original 60-day period of martial law ends today, July 22.
In today’s session, there may be some words of caution from some opposition solons, arising perhaps from memories of the last time martial law was declared in the country. That martial law, proclaimed by President Ferdinand Marcos allegedly to meet an imminent Communist invasion, lasted nine years – from 1972 to 1981. Even after it was officially lifted, the restrictions remained and it took the EDSA People Power Revolution of 1986 to restore the country’s democratic freedoms. None of the abuses of that martial law has taken place in this year’s martial law, which is one big reason Congress will approve the extension of President Duterte’s martial law 2017.
So many leaders of Congress have already expressed their support for an extension of martial law by about five more months up to December 31, 2017, although senators prefer a shorter period. Whatever is finally approved, it should be enough time to root out the Mautes and their Islamic State cohorts holding on to parts of three barangays in Marawi City. It could also be used by the military to step up its campaign to destroy other rebel groups in Mindanao, including the Abu Sayyaf.
Today’s special session will be all serious business on the matter of martial law for the members of Congress. They will meet again in joint session in more cordial circumstances on Monday to hear President Duterte’s State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) and then to resume the work of enacting laws needed for the development of the country in the coming years.