MANILA—Senators on Wednesday condemned the Maute group for their atrocities in Marawi City which began Tuesday saying that they respected the decision of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to place the entire Mindanao island under martial law but reminded him to submit a report to Congress within 48 hours from the proclamation.
Malacañang on Wednesday said Pres. Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Mindanao under martial law for 60 days to suppress terrorist groups from wreaking further havoc in Southern Philippines.
His declaration came after government troops and Maute group — allied with Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon —clashed Tuesday afternoon.
The development also prompted Duterte to cut short his official visit to Moscow, Russia.
Senate Pres. Aquilino Pimentel III, who is in Moscow with the President, said Congress will await the report justifying the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
“As provided by the Constitution, we in Congress will wait for the report of the President justifying the declaration of martial law in Mindanao,” Pimentel said in a statement.
Pimentel pointed out that the President has to report to Congress within 48 hours from the proclamation, and Congress, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its members, may revoke such proclamation or suspension.
He also said Congress may 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
The senator further said that declaring martial law was necessary to ensure public safety.
“There is no question that the violence perpetrated by the Maute gang of terrorists allegedly in connivance with Abu Sayyaf has to be met by the corresponding force of the government to ensure public safety of the residents of Mindanao and the tourists visiting the island,” he added.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan, meanwhile said that while martial law is an option available to the President, Congress will exercise its constitutional duty to look into the basis of the declaration and determine whether or not there is basis for its continued imposition.
Pangilinan said this is to ensure that the constitutionally guaranteed rights of Filipinos are protected and that the exercise of the martial law powers of the President are checked.
Citing Article VII Section 18, Pangilinan said that martial law may be declared and the writ of habeas corpus suspended only “in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it” and not longer than 60 days.
He said that if Congress does not agree with its declaration, 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.
The senator also said that he supports the President’s decision to cut short his trip to Russia and focus on the problem at hand.
Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri backed the need to use “all constitutional means” to suppress lawlessness and eradicate terrorism.
As a Senator from Mindanao, Zubiri said that he understood the President’s frustration in dealing with armed groups across all regions and said that the declaration of martial law should be a chance to finally disarm them.
“With the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, it is hoped that any threat to national security and public safety will be neutralized,” Zubiri said in a statement.
Sen. Francis Escudero for his part said: “I will, therefore await such a report and will vote accordingly as a member of the Congress with only the best interests of our country and people in mind.”
He also reminded the President to submit the report within 48 hours. The Congress may revoke or extend the declaration by a vote or at least a majority of all its members.
Neophyte senator Joel Villanueva, in a statement, said that he understood why the situation called for martial law “due to the gravity of this horrific incident.”
He, however, said that much needs to be discussed on why putting Mindanao under the state of martial law is the best response for this crisis.
He said that the Congress is willing to work with government and all stakeholders in finding the most effective strategy and solution to this problem.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said he believes that the President had the interest of the Filipinos in mind in declaring martial law in Mindanao.
“I am confident that the President, as a dutiful son of Mindanao, will pour his heart and soul into efforts to restore peace and order there as quickly as possible,” Gatchalian said in a statement.
He said that terrorists should be held accountable for their crimes against humanity.
Sen. Nancy Binay, meanwhile, said that she expects Congress to receive Pres. Duterte’s report in accordance with the Constitution.
“We in the Senate expect to receive the President’s report regarding his declaration of martial law, in accordance with the Constitution,” Binay said in a statement.
She called on Filipinos to stand united to fight violence and terror and at the same time uphold the civil and legal rights.
Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV for his part said he respects the President’s decision to declare martial law but must see to it that Congress ensures that constitutional process is followed.
He said that presently the priority must be the people in Marawi and Lanao del Sur.
The senator, meanwhile, called for support behind the Armed Forces of the Philippines and to mobilize resources to aid Marawi residents.
Neophyte senator Risa Hontiveros, on the other hand, said the people deserve a government that makes actions which are measured even as they are prompt and decisive in a time of crisis.
“I call on the Duterte government to allay the fear and confusion of the public by assuring them that the administration is on top of the situation,” Hontiveros said in a statement.
She also extended support for uniformed personnel who she said “are bravely fulfilling their duty to protect the lives of our people from this dastardly act of terror.”
The last President to declare martial law was Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Dec. 4, 2009 in Maguindanao in the aftermath of the Ampatuan massacre. She lifted the declaration eight days later.