House, Senate to vote on Duterte's request to extend martial law Saturday

 

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 21) — Both houses of Congress convened on Saturday to vote on President Rodrigo Duterte's request to extend martial law in Mindanao until the end of the year.

Lawmakers discuss Duterte's proposal in a joint session which started at around 9:00 a.m. at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.

Congress met a quorum with 20 out of 23 senators and 242 out of 291 congressmen present.

House Majority Leader Rudy Fariñas said military and security experts will first brief the lawmakers about the latest security situation in Marawi City, the capital of Lanao del Sur and battle ground of government forces and extremists for almost two months.

A motion will then be made to extend martial law in Mindanao, and the numbers game begins.

At a breakfast meeting prior to the session, the lawmakers agreed to vote jointly through nominal voting. The senators will first vote, followed by the congressmen. Each will be given one minute to explain their vote.

Senate President Koko Pimentel told CNN Philippines the lawmakers also agreed to end the joint session at around 4 p.m., hours before martial law lapses at 10 p.m. in line with the 60-day limit under the Constitution.

 

Around 300 policemen were deployed to secure the area around Batasan, where militant groups are expected to stage protests.

Malacañang said the administration "trusts" Congress to recognize the gravity of the Marawi crisis and support the President's request.

"The primary objective of the extension is to allow our forces to continue in their swift and decisive action in liberating Marawi," Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement on Saturday.

 

Numbers game

The House and Senate Secretaries-General said a majority vote of the two chambers voting jointly is needed to pass the motion. That is equal to at least 158 of the 314 members of Congress.

Only 22 senators can vote, since Alan Peter Cayetano effectively resigned after he was confirmed as Foreign Affairs Secretary, while Senator Leila De Lima is detained at Camp Crame for drug charges.

Some senators have expressed concern over voting jointly, saying they will definitely be outvoted by 291 congressmen.

"It doesn't make sense that the Senate is rendered irrelevant under a bicameral system," Senator Ping Lacson said.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Tito Sotto said he understands his colleagues' grievances over the voting process but he said it's what the Constitution states.

Opposition lawmakers said they will oppose the proposed extension of martial law in Mindanao, but they are also aware that because the President enjoys the support of the super majority, his request is almost certain to be granted.

De Lima, a staunch critic of the Duterte administration, said it would practically be a "foregone conclusion" if the joint session would not turn out to be a "critical inquiry."

Also read: Senators divided on proposed martial law extension up to December

Quelling rebellion

Duterte issued Proclamation No. 216, declaring martial law in Mindanao and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus on May 23 when the ISIS-inspired Maute group stormed Marawi City.

In his letter to Senate President Koko Pimentel and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez dated July 18, Duterte said government needs five more months to quell the rebellion in Mindanao.

Also read: Duterte wants to extend martial law until end of 2017

House minority congressmen led by Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman on Friday requested the Supreme Court to reverse its July 4 ruling upholding the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

In their motion for reconsideration, they maintained that the proclamation is unconstitutional since there is no rebellion in Marawi City or in the entire island of Mindanao, as Duterte cited in his proclamation and report to the Congress.

The Constitution allows the President to declare martial law or suspend the privilege of the writ of the habeas corpus, allowing warrantless arrests, "in case of invasion or rebellion (or) when the public safety requires it" for a period of 60 days.

Catch CNN Philippines' special coverage of the joint session on martial law in Mindanao, which begins at 7 a.m. on Saturday.

CNN Philippines' Joyce Ilas and Cecille Lardizabal contributed to this report.