“THEREFORE, I, GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO, PRESIDENT OF RP, 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 HOSTLITIES.
SEC. 2 – THE PRIVILEGE OF THE WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS WILL LIKEWISE BE SUSPENDED IN THE SAID AREAS FOR THE DURATION OF THE STATE OF MARTIAL LAW.
DONE IN THE CITY OF MANILA, THIS 4TH DAY OF DECEMEBER, 2009. SIGNED, GLORIA M. ARROYO.”
Arroyo and her military operators simply cannot justify this move by invoking ‘public safety’ and justice for the victims of the Ampatuan massacre. The government has so far portrayed nothing but incompetence and lack of political will in ensuring expediency in this case. It waited for three whole days before coming to a decision, a poor first act at that, of issuing a memo DEPLORING the perpetrators to surrender themselves instead of arresting the most likely suspects. View timeline of the Ampatuan massacre here.
Anyone can surmise that Arroyo’s initial hesitancy to arrest the Ampatuans, the suspected masterminds in the brutal killings and mutilation of 58 people, including journalists, lawyers and civilians, despite the surfacing of witnesses and evidence corroborating their involvement in the murders since day one of the unearthing of the bodies, springs from a twisted sense of utang na loob and, well, Philippine politics at its worst — the Ampatuans are said to be the prime operators in Arroyo’s Team Unity’s 12-0 win in Maguindanao in the 2007 congressional and senatorial elections, among other “favors.”
This practice of “I rub your back, you rub mine” has certainly gone out of hand. This same practice of impunity has emboldened the Ampatuans to build their very own fortress in Maguindanao with no less than the local military and police at their disposal.
While the government has already suspended the entire local military and police force and arrested the their chiefs implicated in the murders, it still carries the sole burden of implementing due process of law in arresting the suspects. In declaring martial law in Maguindanao, the government is now saying that authorities, no less than Interior and Local Government chief Ronaldo Puno who was initially deployed to act as officer-in-charge in Maguindanao, failed to do their jobs. Plain and simple.
Still, any truly meaningful and sincere resolution to the murders should be done with constraint and sobriety and declaring martial law is, therefore, arguably a major blunder — unless it again aims to serve an entirely different purpose other than what Malacanang has declared thus far.
The only way that Arroyo can thwart any suspicions on her motive for declaring martial law is to restore all civilian government bodies in the province.
Arroyo is mandated by the Constitution to explain to Congress within 48 hours since her declaration her reasons for imposing martial law in Maguindanao. Congress, on the other hand, has the sole power to revoke it and is obliged to convene 24 hours after the declaration (Update from Cong. Mong Palatino: The House Sec-Gen has already called for an URGENT all-member caucus on Monday, Dec.7, 4pm, to discuss the declaration on martial law in Maguindanao). Any citizen can question the legality of Arroyo’s declaration before the Supreme Court.
The dilemma: While Senate is mainly dominated by the opposition, the almost 300-member-Lower House is a known Arroyo bailiwick, and 95% of the SC justices are Arroyo-appointed.
(Further update: BAYAN has called for an emergency protest at 2pm today at the Boy Scout Monument in Timog, QC to call on Congress to revoke martial law in Maguindanao.)
Who now does not harbor the fear that this same move may be done by the Arroyo regime elsewhere in the country or on a nationwide scope as election time nears?