Lawmakers advised to stay in Manila while waiting for Duterte’s return

MANILA, Philippines – Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas urged lawmakers to remain in Manila while waiting for President Rodrigo Duterte’s return from Russia following the latter’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

“All members are advised to stay put in Manila. Under our rules, our sessions are until Friday. The President will head back home ASAP (the party is now at the Moscow airport) and we may have session as soon as we receive his official report,” said Fariñas in an advisory to his colleagues, which he sent to reporters at 5:55 am on Wednesday, May 24.

Two hours later, Fariñas said the House leadership will allow lawmakers to go to their respective districts “if such is safe, in order to help calm our people.” This was because Deputy Speaker Bai Sandra Sema, Maguindanao 1st District representative, wanted to go to her district. 

On Tuesday afternoon, the military launched a surgical strike in Barangay Basak Malutlut, Marawi City against "high value targets" belonging to the Abu Sayyaf Group and the Maute Group after receiving reports from the community about the presence of up to 15 suspicious armed men in the village. 

The situation worsened a few hours later as fires broke out, power was cut, and the clashes between the military and the rebels continued. (READ: TIMELINE: Marawi clashes prompt martial law in all of Mindanao)

At 10 pm, Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao while he was still in Moscow, Russia. He left the foreign country at 5 am on Wednesday and is expected to be in Manila by 5 pm. (READ: Duterte says his martial law to be similar to Marcos time)

The 1987 Constitution allows the President to declare martial law to “prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion.” Duterte must submit a report, in person or in writing, to Congress within 48 hours after the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

Congress, voting jointly and by a vote of a majority of its members, may revoke or extend the President’s declaration “if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.” 

Fariñas, Ilocos Norte 1st District representative, said it would be best to wait for Duterte’s return to the country before judging his decision to declare martial law.  

“Sadly, I read the statements against the proclamation of Martial Law, even before the President has submitted an official report. Prudence dictates that we hold judgment until we hear the President thru his authorized representatives to give us a briefing. We are thousands of kilometers away and do not know the situation on the ground,” said Fariñas. 

He and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez are set to be briefed by military and police officials on the situation in Marawi City while waiting for the President.

A ‘wake up call’ on terrorism

Several lawmakers consider the attacks in Marawi City as a “wake up call”, not only urging the people to report suspected terrorists but also for the government to take “proactive measures.”

Davao City 1st District Representative Karlo Nograles asked for “divine protection” for soldiers and policemen being deployed to Marawi City.  

“This incident should already serve as a wake up call for the people who have been too afraid to expose the persons behind these terrorist groups. It is time to fight back by reporting these people to authorities,” said Nograles. 

Surigao del Norte 2nd District Representative Robert Ace Barbers, however, wants the government to actively fight the terrorist groups.

"It's high time for authorities to shift from being reactive to taking proactive measures. Numerous people, both civilians and members of the military, have been injured in the current onslaught and in other recent terror attacks. How much more are we willing to risk?” said Barbers.

“They warned us that this will happen. Let us heed their call and give them war! There's no excuse anymore,” he added. 

Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano, a former soldier, also called the Maute attacks in Marawi City “worrisome.”

“Citing security problems aside from Maute in Western and Central Mindanao as the reasons why the declaration covers the entire Mindanao is something that we should consider deeply because those security issues have been there for the longest time. This may mean that martial law could extend much longer than intended,” said the lawmaker who filed the junked impeachment complaint against the President.  

Still, Alejano called for public vigilance so that Duterte’s declaration of martial law will not be abused. – 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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