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Legal challenges to proclamation filed in Supreme Court
In The Press Posted on December 8th, 2009.
THE MARTIAL LAW proclamation covering a wide area of Maguindanao yesterday faced several legal challenges in the Supreme Court.
First to file a petition that also sought a stay order on Proclamation 1959 were Philip Sigfrid A. Fortun and Albert Lee G. Angeles, lawyers of the Ampatuan family members, principal suspects to the massacre of 57 persons, including members of a rival political clan, supporters and journalists.
The government imposed martial law in Maguindanao Friday night, except in two towns covered by a 1997 ceasefire agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, to curb "lawless violence."
Messrs. Fortun and Angeles noted there is no actual rebellion to justify the imposition of martial law as provided for in the Constitution.
They noted that the central government’s takeover of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) meant that the state is in full control of the area, adding that the members of the Ampatuan family have signified their cooperation with authorities.
In a separate petition, Maguindanao Rep. Didagen P. Dilangalen (1st district) noted that "other than the discovery of sizeable arms cache, not a single incident of lawless violence was reported after the declaration of a state of emergency."
Meanwhile, party-list Reps. Satur C. Ocampo of Bayan Muna and Liza L. Maza of Gabriela Women’s Party, and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers led by Neri Javier Colmenares, in a separate petition, said the proclamation is in fact to the advantage of the Ampatuan family.
"Said Ampatuans can easily escape any prosecution against them from any rebellion charges for the simple reason that they did not commit any rebellion and that no such rebellion has ever been committed by them," they said.
Former Senate president Jovito R. Salonga and lawyers Raul C. Pangalangan, Emilio Capulong, Florin T. Hilbay and lawyers from the Roque and Butuyan Law Offices headed by Messrs. Herminio Harry L. Roque, Jr., on the other hand, noted that martial law is a "strong medicine" that should not have been taken immediately.
"One of the restraints to the power to declare martial law is the deference to the ’sequence’ of ’graduated powers’... Not every threat to public safety requires the power to declare martial law," said a student, Joseph Nelson Q. Loyola, who joined in the fray.
On the other hand, a lone petition asking to sustain Proclamation 1959 was also filed.
Lawyer Udtog M. Tago said it is "constitutional, a demonstration of a political will based on actual facts and law and a warning to all those who are developing private armies in any part of the country, particularly in Mindanao."
The high court is expected to tackle all petitions in an en banc meeting today, including the state request to transfer the murder charges against Datu Unsay Mayor Andal U. Ampatuan, Jr. to Manila or Quezon City.
In justifying the martial law proclamation, Malacañang said the peace and order condition in Maguindanao has deteriorated despite the declaration of a state of emergency on Nov. 24 in the province and neighboring Sultan Kudarat province and Cotabato City.
It noted that "heavily armed groups have established positions to resists 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." -- I. P. Pedrasa