House to meet with Cabinet over Mindanao martial law on May 31

MANILA, Philippines – All members of the House of Representatives are set to meet with Cabinet officials as well as Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Mujiv Hataman at 9 am on Wednesday, May 31, to discuss the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

Through a vote of ayes and nays on Monday, May 29, lawmakers approved the motion of Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas for the House to constitute itself into the committee of the whole to listen to the Cabinet officials' briefing.

Fariñas said the meeting will not be a closed-door session, unless the invited officials request for it on Wednesday. 

"It will not be necessarily an executive session, Mr Speaker. We will listen first to them. But if the testimony becomes something delicate, then we will exclude everybody. If the resource persons will say this involves national security, we will do so," said Fariñas.

The following Cabinet officials are expected to give the briefing:

Fariñas pointed out why Hataman and the Cabinet officials may ask for an executive session.

"Why executive session? Because we will be listening to the commanders on the ground. They will be briefing us where the enemies are, what are their courses of action, what are their plans of action. You cannot announce that to the public," said Fariñas, who was designated as the chairperson of the committee of the whole.

Duterte had declared martial law in Mindanao last May 23, following clashes between government forces and Maute Group terrorists in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. 

The 1987 Constitution allows the President to declare martial law for 60 days, but any extension requires the approval of Congress. (READ: Opposition lawmakers hit 'creeping authoritarianism' under Duterte)

Duterte has already complied with the requirement of the 1987 Constitution that he submit a report to Congress within 48 hours after declaring martial law. In his report, Duterte said martial law in the entire Mindanao is necessary because of the Maute Group's intent to establish an Islamic State (ISIS) province there.

Under the 1987 Constitution, the Supreme Court may also review a martial law declaration following an "appropriate proceeding filed by any citizen.” 

Congress leaders, however, already said it is "unlikely" that lawmakers would revoke martial law and therefore there is no need for them to convene. 

The Senate already had a closed-door session to discuss martial law with national security officials on Monday.

But minority senators also filed a resolution calling for the 17th Congress to convene in a joint session to discuss martial law. 

In December 2009, a joint public session was convened at least thrice after then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared martial law in Maguindanao following the Maguindanao massacre. – 

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 or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.