MANILA (10th UPDATE) - President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo officially declared martial law in the province of Maguindanao on Saturday morning.
Martial Law declared in Maguindanao (Malacañang press conference, 5 December 2009) [Larger view]
Download full text: Proclamation 1959: Proclaming a State of Martial Law and Suspending the Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus in the Province of Maguindanao, Except fro Certain Areas
In a press conference past 7 a.m, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita announced Proclamation No. 1959 declaring a state of martial law and suspending 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.
The declaration of martial law will lead to the arrests without warrants of other members of the Ampatuan family who have been linked to the November 23 massacre of 57 innocent civilians. The carnage drew both local and international condemnation.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Victor Ibrado announced that joint police and military teams have taken into custody Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his son, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan.
Ibrado said Ampatuan Sr. was brought to a hospital in Davao City, while the ARMM governor was brought to General Santos City.
As of posting, Maguindanao Vice Governor Akmad Ampatuan Sr. and Shariff Aguak Anwar Ampatuan have also been taken into custody.
Abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak reported early Friday evening that President Arroyo had ordered a state of martial law in Maguindanao, which would take effect on Saturday.
Military, police take control
Security forces on Saturday took full control of the province of Maguindanao following President Arroyo's order placing the province under martial law.
"Based on Proclamation 1959, we are here to formally take over the provincial capitol. By this time, all municipal halls have been secured by the armed forces and police forces in order to ensure that these facilities will be secure," Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Eastern Mindanao Command, announced at a press conference hours after the martial law declaration.
Ferrer said he has been ordered to temporarily take charge of the whole province until Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Ronaldo Puno and government agencies "come up with a new set up for the local government."
He said local government functions have also been suspended indefinitely.
Ferrer said military and police forces have started conducting warrantless arrests of personalities involved in the massacre of 57 innocent civilians, including 30 journalists, in Ampatuan town last November 23.
He said warrantless searches were also being conducted in residences of politicians, mostly members of the powerful political clan of the Ampatuans.
5 more Ampatuans held
Security forces have arrested five more members of the Ampatuan clan: Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan, Maguindanao Vice-Governor Akmad Ampatuan Sr., Shariff Aguak Mayor Anwar Ampatuan, and Cahoner Ampatuan, a Sangguniang Bayan member of Shariff Aguak.
The other local officials arrested were Paisal Sulaik, a Sangguniang Member of Shariff Aguak; Keise Usman, regional secretary of agriculture and of the ARMM; and Kabuntalan Emblawa, regional environment secretary of the ARMM.
A total of six Ampatuans have been arrested, including another son of the Maguindanao governor, Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., who has been charged with 25 counts of murder for the massacre.
Ampatuan Jr. is currently detained at the National Bureau of Investigation headquarters in Manila. Ampatuan Sr. and Zaldy have been brought to Davao City and General City, respectively.
More warrantless arrests
The regional military chief, meanwhile, clarified that the subjects of the warrantless arrest are only those involved in the massacre as determined by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Department of Justice (DOJ).
"We are focusing our arrests and searches to those who we have evidence already. We have several evidences based on police and DOJ findings," he said.
He said the arrests and searches will be conducted solely on "available intelligence information."
He added that they expect to arrest at least 100 people, mostly members of private armies allegedly loyal to the Ampatuans, who participated in the massacre.
No curfew, media restrictions
Ferrer, meanwhile, said that there was no need to implement a curfew because residents of Maguindanao are usually asleep early.
After the bloody massacre, he said travelers have been avoiding crossing Maguindanao at night.
ABS-CBN News correspondent Jorge Cariño earlier reported that military and police checkpoints have been set up every 500 meters of the provincial highway, which connects the province to Sultan Kudarat and other provinces.
Ferrer also clarified that journalists covering the developments in Maguindanao will not be restricted by the military. He said that he would even want the media to cover all operations, including arrests and searches, to ensure transparency and avoid human rights violations.
The military commander added that he sees no need to expand the martial law declaration to other areas--Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato City--which were included in the state of emergency declared by President Arroyo last November 24.
Order of succession
DILG Secretary Ronaldo Puno told radio dzMM in an interview on Saturday that President Arroyo has given him full supervision of Maguindanao while martial law is in effect.
Puno, however, clarified that local government units would still have to be led by elected local officials, not “military mayors.”
“We will abide by the rule on succession. If the mayor is not available, the vice-mayor [will take charge] and then down the line,” he said.
He said that since the ARMM governor has been arrested, Vice-Governor Ansaruddin-Abdulmalik Adiong will automatically assume the position.
He also assured that the other members of the Ampatuan clan, if cleared by police from the massacre, will not be ousted from their current positions.
“One of the main objectives [of the martial law proclamation] is to ensure normalcy in local government,” Puno said.
Reasons for ML declaration
Ermita said President Arroyo decided to declare martial law because "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 and to maintain public order and safety."
The declaration added that despite the state of emergency declared last November 24, peace and order in the province continued to deteriorate "to the extent that local judicial system and other government mechanisms are not functioning."
Ermita said President Arroyo officially signed the proclamation around 9 p.m. Friday based on the recommendation of Ibrado and Philippine National Police chief Director General Jesus Verzosa.
Ibrado said that even before the discovery of a huge arms cache near the ARMM governor's residence in Shariff Aguak last Thursday, he and Verzosa had been receiving field reports about the massing of private armed groups all over Maguindanao.
He said they received reports that the armed groups will "undertake hostile action" in case the Ampatuans and other local government officials allegedly involved in the massacre will be arrested.
"We felt that this is a very imminent threat and so we recommended for this proclamation," Ibrado said, adding that each group sighted numbered from 40 to 400.
Verzosa, for his part, said that they also recommended the suspension of the privilege of writ of habeas corpus to speed up the police investigations into the massacre.
He said police were having a hard time securing search and arrest warrants against the suspects in the massacre, particularly members of the Ampatuan clan, because court judges are too afraid to act on their requests.
Ermita said the massing of forces and the recovery of the huge arms cache near the Ampatuan mansion in Shariff Aguak are indications of a pending rebellion and further lawless violence in the province.
Verzosa said the sizes of the private armed groups give them the capability to carry out more killings as gruesome as the Maguindanao massacre.
Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said that Mrs. Arroyo's martial law proclamation is an "answer to the cry for justice of the victims of the horrendous massacre."
Lifting martial law
Ermita said the proclamation, which is allowed by law to take effect for 60 days, will be lifted only after the situation in Maguindanao has normalized.
He said the recommendation for the lifting of the proclamation should come from Verzosa and Ibrado.
"We'll have to get the report from the field from the AFP and PNP that the conditions that prompted the President to issue the proclamation, have improved, and therefore, the threat of further lawlessness and probability of rebellion is already down," he said.
Remonde said Mrs. Arroyo will immediately lift the proclamation once the police has confirmed that its investigation can push through "unimpeded and unfettered."
Remonde said Mrs. Arroyo will not appoint a military official as caretaker of the Autonomous Region on Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Maguindanao province.
Ermita said the ARMM governor and Ampatuan Sr. will be succeeded by their deputies if there is a need to further hold the two officials under custody.
Nograles backs martial law
House Speaker Prospero Nograles is in favor of President Arroyo's declaration of martial law in Maguindanao.
In an interview over dzMM on Saturday, Nograles said that "as a Mindanaoan, my personal opinion is, for a limited period of 60 days, I will support it so that the prosecution arm of the government can move freely and get the witnesses and gather evidence without fear."
"For 60 days, 2 months, para lang matapos yung evidence gathering, okay naman sa akin," Nograles, who will be running for Davao City mayor in next year's polls, said.
He noted that the government was having difficulty applying the rule of law with respect to the suspects in the killings of 57 innocent civilians in the November 23 Maguindanao massacre since many witnesses and even judges are afraid.
Nograles also said that there was already a de facto martial law in Maguindanao since the military "has been all over the place" after they took over the provincial capitol of Maguindanao last week.
"So, this declaration of martial law there today, Proclamation 1959, is only an official declaration of what is a de facto situation there," he said.
Nograles also said there is no need for Congress to convene in joint session if it does not intend to revoke Proclamation 1959.
Under the 1987 Constitution, he said Congress can revoke the martial law declaration by a majority vote of both Houses in joint session.
"If they feel it's not necessary, they will let it go on in 60 days," Nograles said.
Congress will wait for report
However, he said President Arroyo must submit a report to Congress on her declaration and on the situation in Maguindanao within 48 hours.
Congress will then assess her report and decide whether to revoke the declaration.
"If we will, we will immediately hold a joint session in order to revoke it, but I don't think we need to hold a joint session in the event we won't revoke it. There is no need to affirm it," he said.
After accepting Arroyo's report, Nograles said Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile will call for a caucus of senators while he will call for a caucus of the members of the House of Representatives.
The legislators will then decide whether they plan to revoke Proclamation 1959.
When Congress is in joint session to take up martial law, Nograles said the "ball is in the court of the House" since they can outvote the Senate.
Most congressmen support?
There are 268 congressmen and only 23 senators.
"So the player here is the House more than the Senate because we outnumber them," Nograles added.
In a text message sent to reporters on Saturday, Nograles said "majority of [House] members think that the decision by the president is correct."
"Fact is, that many say it should have been done sooner," he added.
Nograles said he intends to call a caucus on Monday before putting the issue on the House agenda.
He said anyone can also stand up to support or attack the martial law declaration during the privilege hour held every Monday.
"Personally, I think that in this case both Houses of Congress do not indicate any majority numbers with any intention to revoke the proclamation, which is only good for sixty days," he said.
Human rights concern
Meanwhile, a human rights lawyer, and a congressman representing Maguindanao, on Saturday criticized President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for setting a bad precedent by declaring martial law in Maguindanao despite the absence of rebellion or invasion in the province.
Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) lawyer Manuel Diokno told ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) that the 1987 Constitution allows for the declaration of martial law if there is rebellion or invasion.
In this case, he said martial law was declared on the basis of the mass murders that happened November 23. He warned this would set a bad precedent for the country.
Maguindanao Rep. Didagen Dilangalen, interviewed on ANC on Saturday, expressed the same view.
Dilangalen said the government can only declare martial law if there is rebellion or invasion.
"The basis for the declaration does not exist," he said.
Dilangalen said it was ironic that martial law does not apply in areas of the MILF where rebellion exists.
He insisted that there is no rebellion in Maguindanao, adding that the suspects in the November 23 massacre are actually allies of the government.
Members of the Ampatuan family linked to the murders were allies of President Arroyo prior to the massacre. They were expelled from the ruling party after the carnage.
"Is there shooting going on? No. Has there been bombings after the massacre? No," Dilangalen said.
On armed groups allegedly converging to opposed the arrest of the other Ampatuans linked to the murders, Dilangalen said the government can just direct the police to address this problem.
Dilangalen warned that there was a “grand scenario” behind the martial law declaration. He did not elaborate.
He said that if the president can do it in Maguindanao, she can also declare martial law in other provinces using bases not allowed by the Constitution.
Martial law under 1987 Charter
Under the 1987 Constitution, the declaration of martial law will suspend the writ of habeas corpus, which means some citizens may be arrested without warrants.
Section 18 of the Charter states: "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 sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law."
However, the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus only applies to persons charged for "rebellion" or offenses connected with an invasion.
"The suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall apply only to persons judicially charged for rebellion or offenses inherent in, or directly connected with, invasion," the Constitution also says.
It also adds: "During the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, any person thus arrested or detained shall be judicially charged within three days, otherwise he shall be released." -- With reports from RG Cruz, Jorge Cariño, Adrian Ayalin, and Jeff Canoy ABS-CBN News; Lerio Bompat, Anne Santos, and Jasper Acosta, ABS-CBN Regional Network Group; ABS-CBN News Channel; and radio dzMM