Congress can declare unlimited martial law.

This was the interpretation of the 1987 Constitution by Kabayan Party List Rep. Harry Roque as  more and more lawmakers expressed support for the possible extension of martial law in Mindanao.

President Duterte’s first 60 day declaration lapses  either July 23 or 24. the AFP has already indicated interest in an extension.

Congress had been empowered by the Constitution to revoke a martial law declaration, voting jointly.

Furthermore, the 1987 Constitution said, “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.”

Roque said, “yung length naman po take note wala nang limitation. ang nakasaad sa saligang batas only the first 60 days is specially mentioned in the constitution which means its upto congress to determine how long now”

Roque acknowledges the possibility that the president will seek an extension of the declaration.

Previously, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas and Former President, now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo backed the possible extension of martial law.

Alvarez, who represents Davao del Norte’s 1st district, says this is to end the problems in Mindanao once and for all.”ah yes aka billing taga mindanao sinusuportahan ko yung martial law even until upto 2022 para lang matapos itong gulong ito. but i am not saying that it is the official position of the House of Representatives. what im saying is that is my position.”

Alvarez says Duterte’s current martial law declaration lapses on the day the President delivers his state of the nation address—the 60thday after it was declared. “ang position ko sinasabi ko ngayon pa lang without even talking to the executive branch as far as im concerned bilang isang taga Mindanao ang position ko diyan is to extend it until the end of the term of the president para matapos na yang gulo na yan. alam mo yung rebelyon kungdi nila naintindihan mahigit 40 years na yan hanggang ngayon di tapos o kahit sa Mindanao lang matapos na yan”

Farinas said in a statement, “If the President requests Congress to extend his proclamation or suspension on the ground that the rebellion is still persisting and public safety requires it, I shall support him.  Pres. Duterte has shown that he is true to his oath to support and defend the Constitution, and our people continue to express their trust and confidence in him.  We should all support him, as well as the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police and all government authorities in alleviating the sufferings of our people in Mindanao.”

asked during an ambush interview July 1  if she is open to an extension, Arroyo said, “if he asks for it yes.” under the 1987 Constitution, Congress can approve an extenstion past 60 days if it is so requested by the President.

Roque however advises the executive that if Duterte will seek the extension, he should  submit a  fresh report on the factual basis for an extension even before the lapse of the current declaration. This way, the President can take advantage of the Joint Session of Congress on July 24 when the president delivers his State of the Nation Address. Roque believes Congress can put the matter to a vote  so that the declaration of martial law will be seemless and uninterrupted. “kung ako ang presidente  at ako ang liderato na hindi naman ako gagawin ko na yan sa SONA kasi magkakasama na and theres no prohibition. pero kailangan humingi na ang presidente dapat itong linggong ito humingi na siya magmanifest na siya he should submit the report before the 24th to take advantage of the SONA in a joint session magsubmit muna siya ng report.”

Roque explained, ”sa aking kwenta  kailangan magkaroon ng extension beginning the 24th para walang vacuum yung declaration ng Ml in mindanao. dahil 24th papatak yung unang araw na natapos yung earlier 60 day Ml ni presidente sa tingin ko  walang prublema because we will be in session  again on the 24th for the SONA”

Roque explains that once the president decides to extend, he has to submit a fresh report to Congress to justify the extension. “mangyayari diyan is within 48 hours the president must again make a report on why he believes there  should be an extension and that’s when Congress would then convene to determine whether or not extend ML ano yung duration ng extension”

Roque however doesnt think joint voting means joint session of Congress. “yung joint session is again controversial the speaker has changed his position he’s saying now it’s joint session nakasulat dito is upon the initiative of the president congress in the same manner must extend such proclamation my position is voting jointly will be required but not a joint session. i think what happened first 60 days almost identical resolutions by both houses of congress.”

Roque however said that should the president make the decision on the  last day of the current declaration, there will be no need to convene a special session of congress since congress will be in session on the 24th anyway.

Citing Article 13 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines, Roque opined that the correct reckoning of the 60thday of martial law in Mindanao should be counted from the day after martial law was declared on May 23.

The civil code says, “Art. 13.  When the laws speak of years, months, days or nights, it shall be understood that years are of three hundred sixty-five days each; months, of thirty days; days, of twenty-four hours; and nights from sunset to sunrise. If months are designated by their name, they shall be computed by the number of days which they respectively have.

In computing a period, the first day shall be excluded, and the last day included. “

Roque however thinks it is premature to discuss how long the extension should be since the president has not made his decision.”ang punto ko naman po antayin kung hihingin ng extension #2 antayin din kung gaanong extension ang hihingin ni presidente take note that the extension will have to depend on the continuing factual basis  for the declaration of ML wala naman pong kaduda duda na nadesisyunan na ng supreme court na itong unang 60 days has factual basis “

Roque however hopes the extension won’t be long since it has a wide ranging impact on the country. “while im supportive  of the rpesident’s initiative to declare ML i hope it will be for the shortest possible time ML even if warranted..is never good for the country a declaration of ML and a continuing declaration of ML is an admission to the international community that there is rebellion or invasion in the Philippines and public safety required the declaration of ML this is never good for business it is never good for tourism it is never good for our international reputation”

In a separate statement, ACT Teachers Party List Rep. Antonio Tinio said,”It’s an appalling prospect but not unexpected, especially since the recent Supreme Court ruling has enabled the virtually unfettered exercise of the President’s martial law power. It’s becoming more evident that the Marawi crisis was merely the pretext, but the Duterte regime’s plan all along is to place all of Mindanao under permanent martial rule. Pres. Duterte and his allies are keen to implement big infrastructure and agribusiness investments Mindanao, funded mainly by China, that will face opposition from poor farmers, lumad, and Moro who will inevitably face displacement and exclusion. His administration is turning towards more repressive tools, such as martial law, in the hope of suppressing  the resistance of the poor and marginalized so that these big ticket projects will push through. “

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate panned the extension, reiterating instead that martial law be lifted. “As admitted by Defense Sec.Lorenzana himself, it was them who “underestimated”  the magnitude of the Maute/ASG problem. Martial law should not be extended because it is like giving premium to a grave failure and tolerating incompetence. Instead of extending Martial law it should immediately be lifted.”

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman for his part wonders why there are talks of extension when the President has not even sought it? “         Why are some Senators and Representatives talking about extending martial law in Mindanao when the President has not even officially initiated such extension?”

on the other hand, Kabataan Partylist vehemently condemns proposals from House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to extend martial law up to 2022.

“It is becoming more apparent that the ‘counter-terrorism’ bogey is merely a pretext for a nationwide all-out offensive against the people, that has long been floating around their heads. Even the AFP’s head honchos have admitted that the real purpose of martial law is to target NPA rebels and other most wanted targets,” said Sarah Elago, Kabataan Partylist representative.

“Quite contrary to such a purpose, martial law in Mindanao has been wielded against the civil rights of Moro civilians in Marawi, Lumad communities in Surigao del Sur, and other unsuspecting civilians, on the mere accusation of being Maute members or NPA rebels. It has only resulted in hourly airstrikes, hordes of forced evacuations and harrassments and killings by trigger-happy state forces,” Elago added.

(sots Roque, Alvarez, Arroyo; Farinas statement via text)