Alvarez: House monitoring martial law in Mindanao, to 'step in' if needed

MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez assured the public that lawmakers  will keep a "watchful eye" on the martial law declaration in Mindanao and "step in" if necessary.

Alvarez made the statement before fellow lawmakers, Cabinet members, and national security officials at the House plenary hall on Wednesday, May 31. 

"Our present Constitution provides sufficient safeguards to prevent abuses by agents of the State. Moreover, we give the public our assurance that we are keeping a watchful eye upon the unfolding of events and will step in as a counter-balance should and when the need arises," said the Davao del Norte 1st District Representative.

A total of 135 out of 292 lawmakers were present during the roll call, constituting a quorum. 

The House convened as a committee of the whole, composed of all lawmakers, to be briefed on the situation in Mindanao following President Rodrigo Duterte's martial law proclamation on May 23 due to the Maute terror group's attack on Marawi City.

Senators received a similar briefing on Monday, May 29, where national security officials admitted they did not recommend the martial law declaration to the President. 

Alvarez, who supports Duterte's declaration, urged the public to "view the situation not exclusively from the perspective of the past," referring to the horrors of martial law under the Marcos regime. (READ: Martial law, a dark chapter in Philippine history)

The Speaker made the statement a day after he told martial law critics to "shut up" if they are not from Mindanao, since they do not know the situation on the ground.

On Wednesday, Alvarez said House support for martial law should not be seen as support for military action as the only means to resolve the conflict in Marawi City.

"The situation is far more complex. Besides military action, we have to address the historical, social, economic, and political roots of the problem. After all, the most potent weapon against terrorism, insurgencies, and rebellion is nation-building," said Alvarez. 

Shortly after the Speaker's speech, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea requested for an executive session.

A majority of lawmakers present agreed, prompting Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, committee of the whole House chairperson, to order the media and other guests to move out of the plenary hall.

 

Other Cabinet officials present were Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr, and Interior Officer-in-Charge Catalino Cuy.

Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa was set to attend as well, but would be late as he was traveling from Mindanao. (READ: Dela Rosa in Marawi: We must take control of the city)

According to the schedule, the Wednesday briefing for the lawmakers would be until 3 pm, with a lunch break from noon to 1 pm. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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