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Arroyo declares martial law in Maguindanao province

December 5, 2009 7:18am

(Update 3 - 3:30 pm) 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 announced on Saturday morning.
Proclamation No. 1959


The complete text of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's proclamation on Saturday.

Proclamation 1959: Proclaiming a State of Martial Law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the province of Maguindanao except for certain areas.

Whereas, Proclamation No. 1946 was issued on 24 November 2009 declaring a state of emergency in the provinces of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and the City of Cotabato for the purpose of preventing and suppressing lawless violence in the aforesaid areas.

Whereas, Sec. 18 Art. VII of the Constitution provides that “in case of invasion or rebellion, when public safety requires it, the President may, for a period not exceeding 60 days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law."

[Read full text here]


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. This constitutes the first declaration of martial law in the Philippines since 1972, when then-president Ferdinand Marcos imposed military rule over the entire country.

"We are confident that this one is covered by the Constitution," Ermita assured.

"The condition of peace and order in the province of Maguindanao has 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 said the step was taken in order to avert the escalation of "lawless" violence in the province and pave the way for the swift arrest of the suspects in the massacre in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, last November 23.

Ermita likewise clarified that despite the imposition of martial law, elected government officials, and not the military, will take over the supervision of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

"The president has issued Administrative Order 273-A delegating to the local government the supervision of ARMM. Now...in case any local executive is suspended or removed from their position for whatever reason, then the secretary of the local government can determine the successor in accordance with the Constitution," Ermita said, in reaction to earlier reports that a military governor would be appointed to supervise the province.

Denials of martial law

What the Constitution says about martial law

Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution states that:

* The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion.

*In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding 60 days, suspend the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law.

*Within 48 hours from the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, the President shall submit a report in person or in writing to the Congress.

*The Congress, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its members in regular or special session, may revoke such proclamation or suspension, which revocation shall not be set aside by the President.

*Upon the initiative of the President, the Congress may, in the same manner, extend such proclamation or suspension for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.

Reports received late Friday said Mrs. Arroyo had issued an order imposing military rule in the province. However, when contacted by GMANews.TV, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde denied the rumors while Presidential Adviser for Mindanao Affairs Jesus Dureza said he had no information on the matter.

Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao commander Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer will function as military governor after the arrest of Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., according to the report, which did not identify its sources.

The same information was spread through text messages Friday evening that read, "This from usually reliable insider, martial law to be declared in Maguindanao tomorrow. Lt. Gen. Ferrer will be Military Governor. Ampatuans expected to be arrested."

AFP spokesman Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner told GMANews.TV in an interview Friday night that there was no need for martial law at this time. Last week, Maguindanao had been placed under a state of emergency in the days following the massacre.

"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," 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 Theodore Te, a lawyer with the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), a lawyers' network founded during the Marcos era. "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." [See: Critics: Martial law in Maguindanao sets dangerous precedent]

Congress approval needed

According to Article VII, Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution, the President as Commander-in-Chief may call out the armed forces “to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion."

“In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it," the President may place “the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law" for a maximum period of 60 days.

The Constitution also provides that within 48 hours from the proclamation of martial law, “the President shall submit a report in person or in writing to the Congress," which may vote to revoke or extend such proclamation.

In the aftermath of the massacre

Even before the formal announcement of martial law, two more members of the Ampatuan clan were taken in for questioning early Saturday morning, including its patriarch Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. and ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, according to Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Victor Ibrado. [See: Ampatuan Sr., sons, taken into government custody]

The Ampatuan family was implicated in the gruesome massacre on November 23 that claimed the lives of women members of the rival Mangudadatu clan, human rights lawyers, 31 media workers and other innocent civilians in the worst election-related violence in the nation's history.

The massacre has also been condemned worldwide as the worst loss of life of media professionals in one day in the history of journalism.

Police personnel and tanks are scattered around the Maguindanao provincial police headquarters, where Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr and other local officials in the province were brought for questioning. Chino Gaston
Until the slaughter of the Mangudadatu convoy, the Ampatuans had been staunch allies of President Arroyo and were alleged to have helped her win in their bailiwicks through highly questionable methods in the 2004 elections. The Ampatuans control nearly all major local government positions in Maguindanao.

The ill-fated convoy was transporting Mangudadatu women to Maguindanao's capital of Shariff Aguak to file the certificate of candidacy of a clan member who had announced his intention to challenge the Ampatuans' supremacy in next year's elections.

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.

At present, there are six infantry battalions, two mechanized units, and one battalion size operation command in the province, according to Ibrado. [See: Security forces scouring for more Ampatuan weaponry]

Brawner earlier told GMANews.tv that normally there are only two battalions stationed in the province, with each battalion composed of 400 to 500 soldiers.
- TJD, ARCS, GMANews.TV
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