MANILA, Philippines—The historic joint session of Congress adjourned at 8:15 Monday night without taking a stand on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s declaration of martial law in Maguindanao province.
Hours before adjourning, however, the Senate adopted a resolution saying that the martial law proclamation was unconstitutional even after Ms Arroyo lifted it on Saturday.
Speaker Prospero Nograles said most senators and representatives felt that the lifting of martial law had rendered moot and academic a vote by the joint session of Congress on Ms Arroyo’s imposition of martial law.
“We just allowed those who want to speak on the floor to have their time because there is no gag order in Congress,” Nograles said.
It was the first time under the 1987 Constitution that a country’s leader had declared martial law.
The 1987 Constitution mandates a joint session of Congress to approve or revoke a martial law declaration by a simple majority.
The Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading the Freedom of Information Bill, which mandates all government agencies to make available all public records to all interested individuals or groups.
“Magkakaroon na ng batas kung saan [pinagtitibay] ang karapatan ng lahat ng mamamayan na makita ang records ng ating bansa (With this, we shall have a law promoting the right of all Filipinos to have access to all public documents). All records should be made available to the media, to NGOs [non government organizations], and to any interested groups without fear or favor of repercussion from government agencies,” Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri told reporters after the session.
Zubiri branded as “hogwash and a terrible excuse for transparency” the old rule that required people to obtain first a court order or seek permission from the Sandiganbayan and the Ombudsman before they could be given public documents.
“This law is crucial for transparency at credibility of the next administration,” he said.
MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) – An apparent debate between Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago and Makati City Rep. Teodoro Locsin on martial law in Maguindanao stood out in the second day of Congress’ joint session.
Santiago opposed while Locsin defended Proclamation 1959 declaring martial law and suspending the writ of habeas corpus in Maguindanao.
“It is not without irony that I stand here defending martial law. But I do defend it. Nowhere and at no time has martial law been justified nor based more sufficiently or incontrovertible facts…. Look at the bodies. Look at the arms stockpiles,” Locsin told the plenary.
As publisher of the Philippines’ Free Press, Locsin’s father was among those detained by President Marcos when martial law was declared in September 1972.
A senior Malacañang official urged lawmakers on Thursday to do away with “boring” questions on Proclamation 1959 and proceed instead to vote on the imposition of martial law in most parts of Maguindanao province.
“Dapat pagbotohan na ‘yan. Ang tinatanong pare-pareho naman, eh. Nakatulog na ako kagabi (They should go directly to the voting. Their questions are all the same. I was so bored I fell asleep),” chief presidential legal counsel Raul Gonzalez said in an interview on dzXL radio.
Besides, Gonzalez said, the majority of those in the joint session will vote in favor of martial rule in Maguindanao, with opposition coming mainly from the Senate.
The House of Representatives is dominated by political allies of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
With this reality, civil society groups are not placing much hope in the joint session, saying they would rather put their faith in the Supreme Court.
Proclamation 1959: Proclaiming a State of Martial Law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the province of Maguindanao except for certain areas.
Whereas, Proclamation No. 1946 was issued on 24 November 2009 declaring a state of emergency in the provinces of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and the City of Cotabato for the purpose of preventing and suppressing lawless violence in the aforesaid areas.
Whereas, Sec. 18 Art. VII of the Constitution provides that “in case of invasion or rebellion, when public safety requires it, the President may, for a period not exceeding 60 days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law.”
Whereas, Republic Act 6986 provides that “the crime of rebellion or insurrection is committed by rising publicly and taking arms against the government for the purpose of depriving the Chief Executive or the Legislature, wholly or partially, of any of their powers or
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Speaker Prospero Nograles preside over an unprecedented joint session of Congress called to deliberate on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s declaration of martial law in Maguindanao.
MANILA, Philippines—“Where is the President?”
Lawmakers Wednesday cited the glaring absence of the commander in chief, who declared martial law in Maguindanao province, during the first joint session of Congress.
The session was delayed by almost an hour due to debates on the absence of the President, her defense secretary and the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
“Why is she not here? This is history. Does she not have the courtesy at all to report in person? We thought that with the President declaring martial law, the President herself should be here to explain to us,” asked Maguindanao Rep. Didagen Dilangalen, his voice rising.
Together with fellow Maguindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong, Dilangalen said that they were the only lawmakers who were personally affected by Presidential Proclamation No. 1959.
A security officer stands watch outside a hotel room in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front are being held. AP
MANILA, Philippines – The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) panels resumed formal peace talks yesterday in Malaysia as government officials assured the rebels that the imposition of martial law in Maguindanao is limited in terms of objectives, duration, geographic coverage, and operations.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis, government panel chair, had informed members of the International Contact Group (ICG) for the government-MILF peace negotiations about the proclamation of martial law in Maguindanao before the Dec. 8-9 negotiations in Kuala Lumpur.
President Arroyo issued Proclamation 1959 declaring martial law in Maguindanao last Saturday to quell whatsecurity officials claimed was an ongoing rebellion in the province allegedly staged by supporters of the powerful Ampatuan clan that were implicated in the gruesome Nov. 23 massacre of 57 people, including women and journalists.
MANILA, Philippines—She let the shocking pictures do the talking for Presidential Proclamation No. 1959.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo bolstered her argument for placing Maguindanao province under martial law by making gory photos of the Nov. 23 massacre an integral part of the report she sent to Congress on Sunday.
At least four pages of the 20-page report contained images of the corpses, mutilated and decomposing.
“The genitalia of Genalin (sic) Mangudadatu was lacerated four times and blown off by gun fire, and her body horrifyingly mutilated,” the report partly read, referring to the fate of Genalyn, wife of Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu and one of the 57 victims of the election-related carnage.
MANILA, Philippines - A lawyer of the Ampatuans and four other parties, in separate petitions, asked the Supreme Court (SC) yesterday to stop President Arroyo from placing Maguindanao under martial law and to void Proclamation 1959.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said the SC must act on the petitions within 30 days.
At the SC, spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said all the petitions have been included in the agenda for the session today.
The justices would most likely consolidate the petitions and rule on whether a temporary restraining order should be issued, he added.
Joining lawyer Sigfried Fortun in questioning the martial law proclamation were Maguindanao Rep. Didagen Dilangalen of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL); party-list groups Bayan Muna, Gabriela and Bayan; concerned citizens led by former Senate president Jovito Salonga; lawyer Harry Roque Jr.; and law student Joseph Nelson Loyola.
Responding to the cry for justice of the Nov.23 massacre victims and in a move to thwart the “elements of rebellion” in the volatile province, President Arroyo has placed Maguindanao province under martial law rule within the period of 60 days.
Nearly two weeks after the gruesome killing of at least 57 people, including 31 journalists in the Ampatuan-led province, the President issued Proclamation No. 1959 putting the Maguindanao province under the state of martial law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said.