STATEMENT OF SENATOR NOYNOY AQUINO AND SENATOR MAR ROXAS ON THE DECLARATION OF MARTIAL LAW IN MAGUINDANAO
We are alarmed at President Arroyo’s declaration of martial law in Maguindanao and other parts of Mindanao ostensibly to enforce law and order in the area in the aftermath of the massacre of 57 innocent civilians by ardent supporters of this Administration.
The declaration of martial law does not make sense to us:
a. The recent government pronouncements have been that everything is under control:
i. The AFP, through its spokesperson Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner, declared no more than four days ago that there is no need for the declaration of martial law in Maguindanao or elsewhere in the country because the AFP and PNP are on top of the situation.
ii. Acting Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales declared no more than three days ago that the government’s effort to contain the tension in the province is holding ground.
iii. Ronaldo Puno, DILG secretary, said as late as last night that “no decision had been made” on the declaration of martial law, and suggested that queries be directed to Norberto Gonzales, acting DND secretary. What has changed since then?
b. There is no additional advantage to having a martial law regime – legally and militarily.
i. It does not strengthen the position of government to serve justice to the victims of the massacre. The declaration of martial law can even lead to changing the character of the crimes committed in Maguindanao:
1. The crimes allegedly committed are murder, rape, kidnapping and more. These capital crimes are non-bailable. In a state of martial law, these common crimes may be absorbed into the single crime of rebellion.
2. Except for its leaders, supporters of the rebellion are bailable …and worse all those charged with rebellion may be subject to amnesty. Are they laying the basis for a political solution to the crimes committed?
3. The other offenses of rape and mutilation are aggravating for a case of multiple murders (results in maximum penalties). These would be overtaken by the absorption into rebellion.
4. The only difference is 36 hours – presently an accused must be charged with capital offenses within 1 ½ days. Under martial law the accused must be charged within 3 days but only with the lesser crime of rebellion. Will this 36-hour difference provide sufficient substantial advantage to justify the imposing of martial law?
ii. Militarily, the forces are already on the ground. Martial law is not needed to call in additional troops as may be necessary.
So given no improvement in the position of the State, we ask WHY?
1. Is it to cover up the discovery of DND/PNP arms and ammunition in the Ampatuan compound proving government support for the warlords that have delivered questionable election victories to this administration in the past?
2. Is it to impose such overwhelming control so that there can be no leaks of information and suppress evidence of electoral fraud and other crimes?
3. Is it meant to re-establish control of the alleged massive electoral fraud machinery in time for the 2010 elections?
4. Is this a test case for implementing martial law rule in the entire country in order to perpetuate this administration in power indefinitely?
These are only some of the questions that beg answers.
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.
Such grounds do not exist to justify the proclamation of martial law in the Province of Maguindanao.
What happened in Maguindanao was not a rebellion. There was no public uprising and taking-up of arms against the government.
There was no invasion or unlawful foreign military interference in Maguindanao.
Who has rebelled against whom? The Ampatuans are still considered allies of the Arroyo Administration. The arms found in their compound were government-issued. Given this relationship, how can there be rebellion?
We acknowledge that the gravity of the situation in Maguindanao required measures that would guarantee public safety.
We support the full enforcement of the law to restore and maintain order and give justice to the victims of the horrendous act that claimed the lives of innocent civilians, women and members of the media.
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 allegedly of Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr.
She could have directed that all those charged be preventively suspended.
She could have ensured the filing of non-bailable charges like multiple murder and allowed the succession of local officials under the Local Government Code take effect.
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 24 hours of a martial law declaration, without need of the President making a call for Congress to convene.
We appeal to our 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.