MANILA—Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday said that he is suggesting the need to hold a caucus with all senators to discuss a common stand on Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
“We would suggest we hold an all-senators’ caucus just to pick the brains of our fellow senators what their position is on the matter,” Lacson told reporters in an interview.
Lacson, however, acknowledged that the Senate could be deemed “irrelevant” because by sheer numbers there are only 23 senators as opposed to 292 congressperson.
“(The) Senate itself will have a common stand on what to do with the proclamation by the president, then we may opt to make our voices heard at least in that joint session,” he added.
So far, he said that he has already spoken to Sen. Loren Legarda regarding the planned caucus. She has already called the attention of Senate President-Pro Tempore Ralph Recto and Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto II.
Senate Pres. Aquilino Pimentel III is on an official trip with the President in Moscow, Russia.
“…We hold an all-senators’ caucus just to discuss among ourselves first, being the other half of the Congress as an institution. Even if by sheer numbers we are irrelevant but at least, we have discussed this,” he said.
Lacson also reminded Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to submit within 48 hours from proclaiming martial law, a report to Congress, whether in person or in writing.
If Congress does not agree with the declaration of martial law, it can by voting jointly — by a vote of at least a majority of all its members in regular or special session — revoke the proclamation or suspension.
He said that the Senate could not hold a joint session with the Congress until Pres. Duterte has submitted his report within 48 hours upon his declaration.
He further said that the Senate could “take its time unless there is an urgency to revoke.”
“Remember when we revoke the proclamation, the President cannot set that aside. That becomes final. The President has no veto power if the Congress rejects his proclamation by a majority vote. That’s also clear in the Constitution,” he said.
Lacson, former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, meanwhile expressed confidence that the Armed Forces of the Philippines is “professional enough” to handle the situation and prevent abuses.
“There should be no abuses. But I think the AFP is professional enough to handle the situation,” he added.
He said it is best to allow the military to contain the situation first.
The senator said that it is too early to say if a “failure of intel” could have allowed the Maute terrorist group from wreaking havoc in Marawi City when the Philippine National Police (PNP) was conducting its own operations.
“We really need to find out what actually happened before we give judgment if there is a failure or not,”
“…We should have learned our lesson from Mamasapano. Why did it happen again?” he asked but stressing the need to get a clearer picture of the story.
Sen. Gringo Honasan, for his part, urged the public to keep calm and note that the situation in Marawi is “contained and localized.”
He also assured that the Congress would do its part in assuring checks and balances in the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
“What is important is to reassure the public not to overreact. The situation is first localized and it is contained not only by armed forces and the police but by all government agencies working together. This the prerogative of the President, Congress will be participating. There will be a reporting system and a monitoring system,” Honasan said.
“There is a need to reassure our people that this is nothing really unusual. What we want to do is prevent this from happening again,” he added.
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.