House Speaker supports martial law declaration

December 6, 2009 1:43 am 

MANILA, Dec. 5 — The House of Representatives is expected to support the declaration of martial law in Maguindanao.

Early this morning, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo placed Maguindanao under martial law and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the entire province.

In a phone-patch TV interview this morning, House Speaker Prospero Nograles said he could not speak on behalf of the 268 congressmen, but he added, that for his part, he was willing to support it (the declaration), “if only to erase fears of reprisals against witnesses in the Maguindanao massacre.”

Nograles said he was shocked to hear of the Maguindanao massacre, as were the other legislators from Mindanao. He said they were so disgusted that they started calling one another as soon as they heard of the news.

He said he would call on Monday, “before the session starts at 4 p.m., a majority caucus of all members of Congress, including the opposition, to discuss this declaration.”

According to Nograles, the president should make a report to Congress on the declaration by Monday. He said Congress is duty-bound to call a session within 24 hours after receipt of the report for the purpose of looking into the validity of the declaration.

“If we find it justifiable, we will support it,” he said.

He said martial law will give the prosecution and law enforcement agencies the power to gather all the evidence without hindrance and to secure the witnesses and place them under government protection.

He said that a simple majority of all members of the House and the Senate, voting jointly, is all that is needed to approve or disapprove the declaration.

He also said that under the Constitution, the congressmen and the senators need not vote separately on the matter.

He said he and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile had agreed to call their separate caucuses, after which they would meet for a joint assessment.

The Constitution provides that the Supreme Court, acting on a complaint filed by any citizen, may also review the justification or grounds for the imposition of martial law. (PNA) RMA/OPS/rsm

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