Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Proclamation 1959 placing the province of Maguindanao under Martial Law days after the barbaric Ampatuan Massacre is but another ploy to obscure her administration’s accountability in coddling the perpetrators of the gruesome killing, promoting warlordism and perpetuating corruption in Maguindanao and elsewhere.
Proclamation 1959 only shows that the Arroyo administration fails to bring to justice all those responsible for the massacre, especially the politico-warlord clan of the Ampatuans whom it nurtured for a long time in exchange of election favors.
The proclamation has been legally challenged as it lacks the very bases enshrined in the 1987 Constitution. The Constitution states that martial law can be declared in cases of invasion or rebellion and only when public safety demands it. Further, rebellion aims to remove power or allegiance from the government and it requires that there should be at least taking up of arms publicly directed against an existing government.
So now you have Arroyo’s minions desperately spinning round and round to show even a hint of rebellion of the Ampatuans supposedly against Arroyo, a close ally, and with whom they seem to have a friendship that runs so deep that Arroyo’s spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo declared, that the President intends to keep it. The charges of “rebellion” will turn the massacre from a heinous crime to a political crime.
While the perpetrators shall be held liable to each and every murder, to illegal possession or use of firearms, and other crimes related to the recent events, a rebellion charge will make the acts as only one act. Therefore, justice for the victims will not be meted out.
Indeed, a gesture of deep friendship from Arroyo. But this can only be a fitting response to the role that the Ampatuans have reportedly played in the Arroyo’s so-called victory in the 2004 elections, delivering the infamous 12-0 votes.
The military rule will also serve as an excuse to delay the investigation of the involvement of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) of their role in the carnage, in arming the perpetrators as evidenced by the unearthed war material coming from the arsenal of the Department of National Defense (DND), and eventually erase remaining evidences and witnesses of their conspiratorial role that lead to the massacre. The people are now losing fast their trust on the independence of these very institutions which will be handling the evidences.
The Ampatuan massacre has indeed shocked and enraged the Filipino people. But deaths and other acts of violence have long been associated with the Ampatuans in Maguindanao and other warlords in in other parts of Mindanao and elsewhere in the country. The families of the victims of the gruesome massacre and the rest of the Filipino people are crying out for swift and genuine justice and the declaration of martial law is definitely not what we are demanding from the Arroyo government.
The PP 1959, unconstitutional as it is, is as empty as her “I am sorry” for the Garci scandal. It is as gross as her clinging to power by running for congress.
What we need right now is the political will to dismantle political armies, paramilitaries and warlordism, not a military rule that will further undermine civilian authority and threatens civil and political liberties. What we need is to break the impunity – of violent acts by warlords such as the Ampatuans, and of deceitful and unconstitutional acts, equally violent, by the Arroyo government.
On the occasion of the International Human Rights Day, the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center – Kasama sa Kalikasan/Friends of the Earth Philippines (LRC-KsK/FoE Phils) condemns in strongest terms the brutal killing of at least 57 people, that included raped women, lawyers and dozens of journalists in the municipality of Ampatuan in Maguindanao and demands that justice should be served the soonest.
LRC joins the call for the lifting of martial law in Maguindanao. LRC enjoins everyone to be more vigilant as more abuses and violations may arise. Let us add to the enraged voices so that the Ampatuans and the Arroyo administration be brought down from their high seat of impunity.
Erwin B. Quinones
Campaigns Paralegal, Davao Office
Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center
Kasama sa Kalikasan
Friends of the Earth Philippines