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AFP to brief senators on second martial law extension next week

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The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will hold a security briefing with senators next week to tackle the proposed extension of martial law in Mindanao, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Friday.

Sotto said the briefing will be held in executive session on Monday at 10 a.m. before they resume consideration of the proposed 2019 national budget.

“Monday morning, may briefing kami ng AFP (We have a briefing from the AFP),” he told reporters in a text message.

Martial law in Mindanao was declared on May 23, 2017 following attacks launched by the Maute Group in Marawi City. Since then, Congress has twice granted the Chief Executive’s request for the extension of martial law in the region, with the last one expiring on Dec. 31, 2018.

The AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have recommended at least another year of extension, citing the continued presence of terror threats and the upcoming plebiscite on the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and mid-term elections as basis.

Meanwhile, Sotto said President Rodrigo Duterte has also sent him a message, informing him of a possible joint session of Congress by Wednesday to tackle the issue.

“I’m still waiting for the President’s letter re: joint session,” Sotto said.

In relation to this, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said he is hoping that the joint session would be called in the morning, and not in the afternoon, so as not to further delay the passage of the 2019 national budget.

He said a joint session in the afternoon would derail plans to pass the budget on second and third reading by Wednesday, hold a bicameral conference committee meeting, and convene a special session the week before Christmas to ratify the measure.

Because of this, Zubiri said he is appealing to Malacañang to call the joint session in the morning so that they will still have time to finish the budget in the evening.

“Kasi ang plano po namin kung magtatawag sila ng special session ng umaga, punta po kami ng Kongreso para dun at babalik po kami ng hapon (Our plan is to go to the House in the morning for the joint session and be back at the Senate in the afternoon.) At least by 1 o’clock, we resume consideration on the budget bill so that we can take up at least another eight hours to 10 hours that day,” he said.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to approve it that day (Wednesday) for third and final reading,” Zubiri said. (PNA)