2010 elections, Human rights

Mission accomplished? Arroyo lifts martial law

Photo from Reuters

Of course, the decision by Mrs. Gloria Arroyo to lift martial law in Maguindanao last night (Dec. 12, 9PM) after one week must be welcomed. But looking at the bigger picture, the people must also be alarmed. Why, what are the dangers?

The lifting of Proclamation 1959 preempted Congress and the Supreme Court (SC) from deciding on the legitimacy of martial law. As such, questions on its legality have remained unresolved. House Speaker Prospero Nograles and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile already said that they are adjourning the joint session on Proclamation 1959 on Monday, Dec. 14. As for the SC, it is hoped that it would still pursue the seven petitions versus martial law filed before it last week. The SC is supposed to determine whether or not Mrs. Arroyo abused her constitutional power to declare martial law.

As of this posting, however, there is still no official announcement from the SC. It only said its order for Malacañang to answer the petitions will stay. But the SC also added that the executive can manifest that martial law has been lifted (and thus the subject of the petitions no longer exists). If it decides to discontinue hearing the petitions, then we are in an even more precarious situation. Mrs. Arroyo can just impose martial law at whim, anywhere, using flimsy grounds like concocted rebellion. All she has to do is lift it before Congress and the SC can intervene. And then she can get away with murder.

With elections just around the corner, this is dangerous since military rule can be used to sabotage the polls. Imagine a scenario when martial law is declared on Election Day, or days before to lay the ground for fraud or election failure in certain areas. These unnerving possibilities are not farfetched especially with an incumbent President who will at all costs prolong her stay in power. The lifting of Proclamation 1959 did not ease fears of what Sen. Miriam Santiago called a “conspiracy” to expand martial law outside Maguindanao. We can thus expect more beheadings, hostage takings, clan wars, bombings, etc. in the months leading to the 2010 elections.

The other danger involves the cases facing the Ampatuans. Five members of the Ampatuan clan have already been charged with multiple counts of murder for the massacre. One of them is main suspect Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. But other important members of the clan, including its patriarch Andal Sr. have been charged with rebellion instead. Pundits noted that the rebellion charge is actually an escape route for the Ampatuans. Because most of them were accused with a political crime (i.e. rebellion) and not a criminal case (i.e. murder), there is more room for compromises including pardon or even acquittal.

There is also a chance that evidence such as the caches of arms and ammo seized from the Ampatuans during martial law could be questioned in courts. Ampatuans’ lawyers may argue that such evidence was illegally seized under Proclamation 1959, whose legitimacy was not resolved. Thus, martial law was effectively used to dilute the case versus the warlord clan.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said they lifted martial law because it has already achieved its objectives. If these objectives are to make Proclamation 1959 a dry-run for future wider martial law and to weaken the criminal liability of the Ampatuans, then it is indeed mission accomplished for Malacañang.

2010 elections, Human rights

Martial Law: Today Maguindanao, tomorrow the Philippines?

(Below is the full text of Mrs. Gloria Arroyo’s Proclamation No. 1959 placing the province of Maguindanao under Martial Law.)

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.”

Whereas, Republic Act 6986 provides that “the crime of rebellion or insurrection is committed by rising publicly and taking arms against the government for the purpose of depriving the Chief Executive or the Legislature, wholly or partially, of any of their powers or prerogatives.”

Whereas, heavily armed groups in the province of Maguindanao have established positions to resist government troops thereby depriving the Executive of its powers and prerogatives to enforce the laws of the land to maintain public order and safety.

Whereas, the condition of peace and order in the province of Maguindanao has deteriorated to the extent that local judicial system and other government mechanisms in the province are not functioning; thus, endangering public safety.

Whereas, the implementing operational guidelines of the GRP-MILF agreement on the General Cessation of Hostilities dated 14 Nov. 1997 provides that the following is considered a prohibited hostile act: “establishment of checkpoints except those necessary for the GRP’s enforcement and maintenance of peace and order and for the defense and security of the MILF in their identified areas as jointly determined by GRP and MILF.”

Now, therefore I, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, President of the Republic of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested in me by the Constitution and by law, do hereby proclaim as follows:

Sec. 1: There is hereby declared a state of martial law in the province of Maguindanao except for the identified areas of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as referred to in the implementing operational guidelines of the GRP-MILF agreement on the General Cessation of Hostilities.

Sec. 2: The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall likewise be suspended in the aforesaid area for the duration of the state of martial law.

Done in the City of Manila this 4th day of December in the Year of Our Lord, Two Thousand and Nine.

(Originally Signed)

Gloria M. Arroyo

By the President:

(Originally Signed)

Eduardo Ermita

Executive Secretary

Watch the press conference called by Exec. Sec. Eduardo Ermita on Proclamation 1959

2010 elections, Charter change

Arroyo running: “Gloria Forever” scheme now in the open

Photo from Reuters

Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today confirmed what the public knew all along, that she is not giving up power next year and will seek a congressional seat in Pampanga’s second district. Their game plan is to use Congress only as a route toward clinching the position of Prime Minister in a parliamentary form of government that shall be created through Charter change (Cha-cha).

If this sinister scheme will push through as planned, it will indeed be “Gloria Forever” as repeatedly warned in the past by critics and political observers. This move by Arroyo and her political operators is a travesty of democracy in the highest order. Nothing in existing laws of course prevents Mrs. Arroyo from running as congresswoman. But for many people including even legal experts, the issue is no longer simply about what the law allows but what decency and delicadeza dictate – which today Mrs. Arroyo has again made clear are virtues beyond her comprehension.

Mrs. Arroyo will not give up power and will do everything she can, at all costs, to use government in order to avoid accountability for the very long list of crimes she has committed against the Filipino people since 2001. Her administration has earned the notoriety as the most vicious, most brutal regime in terms of repressing the people’s basic human rights and has done this even without formally declaring Martial Law like Ferdinand Marcos. Almost 1,110 people have already been killed by her terrorist regime aside from almost 200 people who have been abducted by suspected military, paramilitary and police elements and remain missing to this day.

This climate of impunity emboldened her allied warlord clans like the Ampatuans to massacre people as they please, knowing that they can get away with it because their patron is the biggest warlord at the helm of Malacañang.

Her regime challenges the Marcos dictatorship not only in terms of human rights violations but also in terms of massive corruption. The Philippines has consistently ranked among the most corrupt countries in the world. Mrs. Arroyo’s personal declared wealth has jumped by 164% since becoming president in 2001 (from P66.75 million to P177.18 million) and certainly this is just the very small tip of a very large iceberg. By the way, the number of poor families during the same period increased by 2.3 million or an additional 11.5 million poor people as Arroyo, her family, her cronies and allies enrich themselves.

That Mrs. Arroyo declared her intention to run at a time when the public is deeply outraged by the Ampatuan massacre and her lack of swift action against a favored warlord is only but a fitting move for a regime so absolutely detested, so totally isolated from the people.

Sige lang at gatungan pa ninyo ang galit ng taumbayan. May araw din kayo.