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Civic leaders, leftists hit martial law
In The Press Posted on December 4th, 2009.
MANILA – President Arroyo’s declaration of martial law in Maguindanao province on Saturday drew criticisms from civic leaders and civil society groups.
University of the Philippines law professor and human rights lawyer Harry Roque said the declaration of martial law and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Maguindanao is without clear basis.
"The writ is the strongest means to secure the right of liberty. Suspend that and the people are sitting ducks to autocratic governments," Roque said.
Under the Constitution, Roque said it specifies the grounds for the declaration of martial law like insurrection, rebellion and invasion.
“None of these grounds are present in Mindanao. Instead, Maguindanao is a purely police issue. Martial law cannot solve a police matter,” Roque added.
He reminded that the declaration of martial law is an extraordinary power of the President as Commander-in-Chief and should be resorted to only as a last resort.
Leah Navarro of the civic group, Black and White Movement, also expressed concerns about the declaration.
“We are concerned at the declaration of martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in so far as the prerequisites for such a declaration may not have been sufficient,” Navarro said.
Proclamation No. 1959
On Saturday morning, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita announced Proclamation No. 1959, signed by President Arroyo Friday night based on the recommendations of Armed Forces Chief of Staff Victor Ibrado and Philippine National Police Chief Director General Jesus Verzosa.
It declared a state of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the province of Maguindanao, except for certain areas identified as bailiwicks of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) separatists.
Ermita said the decision to declare a martial law was due to "heavily armed groups in the province of Maguindanao who have established positions to resist government troops, thereby depriving the executive of its powers and prerogatives to enforce the laws of the land and to maintain public order and safety."
Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo echoed the same opinion as Roque’s, saying that under the Constitution, only in cases of invasion or rebellion can President Arroyo declare martial law or suspend the writ of habeas corpus.
Ocampo said the declaration is unconstitutional as neither condition exists in Maguindanao.
‘Rule of law not martial law’
Another representative of Bayan Muna, Rep. Teddy Casiño also does not see the need to impose martial law in Maguindanao as the armed forces and the police have enough powers to deal with the situation there.
“What we need is not martial law but the rule of law to be followed aggressively but wisely. All it takes is political will for GMA to cut her umbilical cord with the Ampatuans and let justice take its course,” Casino said.
Gabriela party-list Rep. Liza Maza said Mrs. Arroyo is “gravely abusing her authority”.
Another female lawmaker, citizens' party Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros said the declaration proves that the national government is powerless over warlordism.
“Government didn't have to declare martial law to enforce the law and arrest the perpetrators. What is basis? Dapat talagang matapos ang warlordism. Pero ang martial law ay mag-aanak lang ng iba pang pang-aabuso at ng iba pang warlords, hindi lang sa Maguindanao kundi sa loob mismo ng Malacañang,” Hontiveros claimed.
'A dangerous precedent'
The leftist Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said in a statement that martial law in Maguindanao “sets a most dangerous precedent for the nation”.
“We reiterate our call for justice for the victims of the Ampatuan Massacre, but we cannot support measures that are both dangerous and questionable,” Bayan said.
Bayan demands the lifting of martial law in Maguindanao, adding that it “cannot solve the problem of state-sponsored warlordism and violence in the province.”
“Martial Law will always lead to abuses because those implementing it, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, have very poor human rights records,” Bayan added.
as of 12/05/2009 1:45 PM