Congress can limit period, scope of martial law in Mindanao

MANILA — Sen. Francis Escudero on Wednesday allayed fears of possible martial law abuses in Mindanao noting that safeguards are in place and that Congress has the power to limit its period and scope.

Malacañang on Wednesday said Pres. Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Mindanao island under martial law for 60 days to suppress terrorist groups from wreaking further havoc in Southern Philippines.

Escudero said that it is best to await the report of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte justifying the declaration of martial law in Mindanao whether in person or by writing.

The President had to submit the report within 48 hours from the proclamation. Congress will meanwhile vote jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its members, to revoke such proclamation or suspension.

“Maraming pamamaraan ang revocation kung iyan man ang magiging pasya ng Kongreso ang puwedeng gawin. Puwedeng sa period hindi ganoong kahaba tulad ng 60-day maximum period. Puwedeng limitahan sa 10, 20, 30, 40. Pangalawa, puwede ring limitahan ang scope o coverage pagdating sa geographic area na kino-cover ng deklarasyon ng pangulo at pangatlo siyempre puwedeng i-revoke lang din completely iyong deklarasyon both with respect to the 60-day period with respective coverage to the entire island of Mindanao,” Escudero told reporters in an interview.

(“There are many ways to revoke, if that would be the decision of the Congress. It is possible that in terms of period, it won’t be as long as a 60-day maximum period. It can be limited to 10, 20, 30, 40 days. Second, it is also possible to limit the scope or coverage in terms of geographic area covered by the declaration.”)

However, there is also the option to extend such proclamation or suspension for a determined period of time if the rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it upon the initiative of the President.

Escudero said that he would rather not judge whether the scope should be limited to Marawi and nearby provinces instead of the entire Mindanao until Pres. Duterte’s report has been submitted.

“Ayoko munang husgahan hantayin ko yung pagsumite ng report dahil isang buong isla ‘yun na maaring lumampas o maaring tumatakbo sa ibang lugar labas sa Marawi, labas sa Lanao Del Sur yung kanilang mga tinugtugis. Inaasahan ko magiging bahagi o kasama ng report yun,” Escudero said.

(“I don’t want to judge, I will wait for the submission of the report because it is an entire island and it can spread to different areas outside Marawi, outside Lanao Del Sur. I am expecting this to be part of the report.”)

Meanwhile, he said that leaders of both Senate and House of representatives will decide to convene only to revoke the declaration of martial law.

He, however, said that he would still want the matter to be discussed and voted on to make the mandate clear.

The senator, however, said that under the Constitution, the Congress would only function if there is an agreement to revoke or extend the declaration.

“Sa ilalim ng Saligang Batas, hindi kailangan i-confirm ng Kongreso o i-affirm ng Kongreso ang deklarasyon ng Pangulo. Ang pwede lamang gawin ng Kongreso ay i-revoke o kapagka hiniling ng Pangulo i-extend ito. Pero hindi kinakailangan ng approval, affirmation, consent o confirmation ng Kongreso bago maging ganap o bago mapatupad ang martial law sa buong Mindanao,” he said.

(“Under the Constitution, the Congress does not need to confirm the declaration of the President. The Congress can only revoke or, if requested by the President, extend it. But there is no need for an approval, affirmation, consent or confirmation from the Congress before martial law is declared in Mindanao.”)

Escudero, meanwhile, clarified that it was not correct to assume that the declaration of martial law entails the suspension of privilege of writ of habeas corpus.

“Liwanagin ko rin, hindi tama at totoo yung sinabi na automatically it will entail the suspension of privilege of writ of habeas corpus. Kailangang hiwalay din ang deklarasyon pa ang Pangulo kaugnay ng pagsuspinde ng privilege of the writ of habeas corpus na tila hindi kasama sa kaniyang deklarasyon,” he added.

(“I want to clarify, it is not right that automatically it will entail the suspension of privilege of writ of habeas corpus. It should be a separate declaration by the President.”)

‘Not like 1972’

Escudero also assured that the declaration of martial law will not be similar to the declaration of former Pres. Ferdinand Marcos in 1972.

“Hindi na ito tulad ng 1972, nagpa-function pa rin ang ating Saligang Batas, nagpa-function pa rin ang ating Korte (This isn’t like 1972, our Constitution still functions, our courts still function),” Escudero said.

“Hindi na katulad ng dati dahil nga sa karanasan natin noon, pinagtibay nung mga nagsulat ng Saligang Batas na protektado ang karapatan ng ating mga kababayan sa kabila at sa gitna ng deklarasyon ng martial law (This won’t be like before because after our experience in the past, framers of the Constitution have strengthened it to protect the rights of our countrymen amid the declaration of martial law),” he added.

He said that the priority is still to assure the safety and protection of citizens in Mindanao.

“Ang importante maibalik ang kaayusan, mapangalagaan ang kapayapaan at kaligtasan ang mga kababayan natin duon (What’s important is to restore order, peace and safety of our countrymen there),” he said.

The senator, meanwhile, asked the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police to uphold the civil and legal rights and not use martial law as an excuse for abuse. Azer Parrocha/

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