Press Release
May 26, 2017

Hontiveros to Congress: Don't default on constitutional duty, hold joint session on martial law declaration

Saying that Congress must not default on its constitutional duty, Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros on Friday asked the legislature to convene its members to discuss the report of President Rodrigo Duterte on his martial law declaration in Mindanao as a response to the Marawi crisis.

Hontiveros issued the statement after Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez both said that there is no need for the Senate and the House of Representatives to convene in a joint session if the majority of its members agree with the declaration of martial law.

"With all due respect to the leaders of the two chambers of the legislature, but how can we get the exact sense of the majority of the lawmakers if we don't convene in a joint session? I hope the legislature is not taking the declaration of martial law lightly," Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros explained that the mandate of the constitution is clear. She said that there are no provisions in the constitution that says that convening a joint session on the declaration of martial law is optional.

"The legislature has the constitutional duty to scrutinize the report of the President on the declaration of martial law before a joint session. We have the duty to evaluate if the declaration has basis or not. Even if the declaration seems to have the support of the majority of our lawmakers, the constitution mandates us to listen to all voices, particularly those who raise legitimate concerns over the implementation of this proclamation," Hontiveros said.

"More than trusting the President, we should put our trust in our check-and-balance mechanisms. This is one of the best ways to ensure that any declaration of martial law, valid or not, is not abused, Hontiveros added.

Hontiveros said that a joint session will also be an opportunity for lawmakers to officially record their vote and show their constituents and the general public where they stand on this important issue. "The people deserve to know where their lawmakers stand on this important matter. If they believe that they stand on the right side of history, I don't see why Congress can't convene a joint session," she said.

Congress is constitutionally mandated to receive a report from the President on his martial law declaration within 48 hours of its proclamation, and vote on it in joint session.

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