GMA declares Martial Law in Maguindanao

Arroyo declares Martial law in Maguindanao province

DISCLAIMER: This text is redacted from a GMA News report.
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In the wake of the massacre of 57 people in Ampatuan town, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo placed Maguindanao under a state of martial law, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said Saturday.

In so doing, Malacañang has suspended the writ of habeas corpus in the province except “for certain areas,” enabling the military to make arrests without court intervention.

“The condition of peace and order in the province of Maguindanao have deteriorated to the extent that local judicial systems and other government mechanisms are not functioning and thus endangering public safety,” said Ermita at a press briefing at the Palace.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde pointed out that the judicial process in the province is being hampered as “no judges will take the case, no judges will pursue the proper search warrants, or warrant of arrests.”

Ermita’s announcement, contained under Proclamation 1959, constitutes the first declaration of martial law in the Philippines since 1972, when then-president Ferdinand Marcos imposed military rule over the entire country.

Ibrado said the threat of suspects in the Maguindanao massacre joining armed supporters of the Ampatuan clan in resisting government forces played a key role in prompting the declaration of martial law over the province.

“We received reports that they had plans to undertake hostile action if ever the government officials, the Ampatuans particularly, were taken into custody. We felt this is a very imminent threat so we recommended for this proclamation,” he said at a press briefing in Malacañang.

“With the connection of the reported armed groups that may provide support for those suspected of being involved and manifested by the fact there are many high powered firearms recovered in the general area, the elements of rebellion are present and hence the basis for the declaration of a proclamation declaring martial law and suspension of habeas corpus is established,” Ermita said.

“There is no need for the declaration of martial law in the area of Maguindanao or elsewhere in the country because the AFP and the Philippine National Police are on top of the situation,” [Lt.] Brawner said on Friday, even as his superiors were planning martial law in the province.

Brawner’s view has been echoed by human rights lawyers who see other scenarios other than the arrest of the massacre perpetrators. “There was already a state of emergency. Why did they need a declaration of martial law?” said Ted Te, a lawyer with the Free Legal Assistance Group, a lawyers’ network founded during the martial law era under former dictator Ferdinand Marcos. “There’s no reason for it, unless they’re not revealing everything yet.”

“The talk among some lawyers is that this could be an experiment or a testing ground for declaring martial law in other provinces to consolidate for unpopular candidates,” Te added. “That could lead the way to cha-cha (charter change). Mahaba pa ang puwedeng puntahan nito.”

In a statement posted on his Facebook page, University of the Philippines Law School Dean Marvic Leonen said, “She (President Arroyo) must clearly demonstrate why martial law needs to be declared. The proclamation of Martial Law can be used as a means to gain unfair advantage in the upcoming elections or as an excuse to declare a failure of elections contrary to the people’s will.”

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