MANILA – President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has not decided on issuing a new martial law proclamation when the effectivity of the 60-day martial law under Proclamation 216 lapses, Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo clarified Thursday.
Panelo said he only cited the possibility of Duterte issuing a new proclamation, as a legal option, in case Congress refuses to extend the term of the current martial law, the legality of which the Supreme Court upheld in a 11-3-1 ruling last July 4.
Several administration officials had earlier hinted at the need to extend the Mindanao martial law which began May 23 when terrorists led by Maute Group laid siege to Marawi City, and continue to hold out against government forces in small pockets of the once bustling city now damaged by air strikes and fierce fighting.
Meanwhile, Panelo pointed out that should an extension of the martial law in Mindanao indeed come to pass, the Constitution does not put a limit on its length. Thus, unlike Proclamation 216 that clearly set a limit of 60 days, an extension will not be bound by any timeline, he added.
Nonetheless, Panelo conceded there is still a need to prove beyond doubt if there’s basis to extend the declaration before Congress can approve such extension.
Panelo stressed he never said Duterte was bent on issuing a new proclamation imposing martial law.
The Palace lawyer said he was replying to a hypothetical question on what could happen if Congress does not approve the martial law extension.
He simply said there are other legal remedies, among them, a new proclamation.
Still, the President has made no decision yet on the matter and will base future action on the military’s recommendations, Panelo added.
Panelo’s clarification came even as Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon reminded the President it is only Congress that has the power to extend martial law.
“To me, the power to extend martial law rests in Congress. That is clear from the Constitution. The Constitution says that upon the initiative of the President, the Congress may extend the martial law. The power is with Congress to extend upon the initiative of the President. This is because when you look back at the history, the framers of the Constitution did not want an indefinite period of martial. The framers limited it initially to 60 days. The President is given the prerogative whether or not a martial law is necessary subject to the review of the Supreme Court.”
Beyond 60 days, Drilon said, “it is now the joint responsibility of the president and congress to determine whether the martial will be extended. It is the initiative of the president, but it is Congress that will now extend. Maliwanag po iyan sa ating Saligant Batas. If I may read it, “upon the initiative of the President, the Congress may, in the same manner, extend such proclamation or suspension for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.”
Drilon suggested that the president, before July 22 – the last day of the president’s proclamation – inform Congress that he intends to extend martial before the expiry on July 22, which is a Saturday. “To avoid any question, the President should advise Congress that it is his intention to extend martial law. Now, on July 24 – remember that on July 24 Congress will be in joint session for the SONA. My suggestion that instead of adjourning after the SONA, we continue the joint session in order to work on the request of the president for an extension of martial law, for Congress to decide on it.”
After the SONA, Congress in joint session can come up with that decision to extend. “In other words, we do not adjourn the joint session, ipagpatuloy natin para pakinggan ang mga argumento kung bakit ipagpapatuloy ang martial law. That needs the decision of the president to request Congress to extend. That request, if I may suggest, be sent in before July 22.”
Drilon is not worried by the possible technical loophole of the one day gap – July 23 – between the date the Proclamation 216 lapses on July 22, and July 24 when Congress convenes jointly to hear the SONA. “That’s only Sunday. Theoretically wala na. That’s only one day. For all practical purposes, we will be requesting that if martial law goes beyond July 22, that’s an extension,” he said.