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Martial Law briefing at Senate set

Top security and defense officials will appear before the Senate tomorrow afternoon to explain the basis of President Duterte’s declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, Senate Majority Leader Vicente C. Sotto III said yesterday.

These officials are National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, a former Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff; Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, and Gen. Eduardo Año, AFP chief of staff.

Sotto said the briefing will be conducted after the Senate during its plenary session has called for a recess based on its tradition that it does not hold a plenary session for a day when a current or past member has died.

He was referring to the 96-year-old Eva Estrada Kalaw, a two-term senator from 1965 until the 1972 declaration of Martial Law which closed down Congress.

The meeting between senators to be led by Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and the three security and defense officials will be held in closed doors, Sotto said.

Sotto said it will be up to the Senate whether it would brief Senate reporters on issues that would be taken up during the executive session.

He also said he does not see the need for both the Senate and the House of Representatives to meet in joint session to discuss the Martial Law declaration which, under the Constitution, should be held only to revoke or extend the Martial Law period.

Meanwhile, the House leadership has started scrutinizing Duterte’s report on the declaration placing Mindanao under Martial Law.

House Majority Floor Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo “Rudy” Fariñas, a stalwart of the ruling Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan, assured that the report would be given due attention by the leadership after it was given to House Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez and Pimentel last Thursday evening in Davao City.

Fariñas said they will assess if the report on Martial Law will be made available to the public as it may contain classified information.

“I’ve not even seen or read it as it was given personally to the Speaker in Davao last night. I could not say now if I could give you copies thereof until I’ve read its contents as it might contain classified information,” Fariñas said. (Mario B. Casayuran and Charissa L. Atienza)