Senator Noynoy Aquino’s Official Statement on the Declaration of Martial Law in Maguindanao
For weeks now, the country has shared the shock, horror and agony of the people of Maguindanao over the slaughter of innocents. This national outrage has increased as securing justice faces hurdle after hurdle, both in Maguindanao and in Manila. Our people want justice, and they want results; the government wants us to believe that it must impose Martial Law for justice to be accomplished, and for peace and order to finally prevail in Maguindanao.
Now, for the first time since 1972, the chief executive has seen fit to take this unprecedented step. But unlike 1972, there are many Constitutional safeguards in place to ensure that martial law is an option taken with full transparency and under legislative oversight.
The people of Maguindanao, the people of the Philippines and the troops on this mission, deserve every assurance that this act will, indeed, result in justice being served and peace being restored. If the declaration of Martial Law is not motivated by the enforcement of the rule of law, but is rather an attempt to expand authority by means of the military it will be a grave abuse of power and reckless endangerment of the lives of our brave soldiers.
The Constitution is clear: martial law can only be declared upon the existence of an actual invasion or rebellion, and when public safety requires it.
Is there truly a legal basis for declaring martial law in Maguindanao?
Is the restoration of peace and order the real reason for the imposition of martial law or are there other reasons yet unseen?
Is it to instill fear, given the very negative connotations of martial law?
Can we take Mrs. Arroyo’s word when she is largely responsible for the creation of this monster?
Does it not indicate the state’s inability to enforce its laws that it had to resort to something as drastic as martial law, despite its possible repercussions on the economy?
The President need not declare martial law. She could have swiftly ordered that charges be filed against all those who carried out the lawless orders of Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr. She could have directed that all those charged be preventively suspended. She could have instructed the Prosecutors to ask the Courts to deny bail to all those charged with the commission of this heinous crime and let the succession of local officials under the Local Government Code take effect, to ensure that the local government will continue to function.
This extraordinary step fuels much speculation on the real intention behind it.
The people must demand an explanation of the circumstances that led the administration to resort to this action, how the President intends to use its vast powers, and for how long.
The rule of law must prevail; constitutional processes must prevail. The courts cannot be abolished there or elsewhere. The President of the Philippines remains accountable not only to the Congress of the Philippines, but to the People of the Philippines for taking this course.
We must also demand that both houses of Congress meet, as required by the Constitution, within 48 hours of a martial law declaration, without need of the President making a call for Congress to convene.
While the Constitution expects both houses to merge for the purpose of voting on this specific imposition of martial law, it also expects our lawmakers never to surrender their identity as representatives of the people.
I appeal to my colleagues in Congress to come together immediately and ascertain the validity of this imposition.
Congress must muster a quorum. Congress must not be a rubber stamp. Congress must ask the right questions, and it must act now.
This is a time for all our people to be sober, discerning, vigilant and unafraid.