MANILA - Former president Fidel Ramos on Sunday said that President Arroyo is going the way of former president Ferdinand Marcos in declaring martial law in Maguindanao.
Ramos said the mistakes of martial rule are being repeated by the Arroyo administration.
"Is that the reputation she would like to have? Para tayong bumalik doon sa ating 'original sin' from September 1972?" Ramos said.
In the same way, Ramos warned the President she could suffer the same fate that befell Marcos.
"Iba na iyong martial law noong September 1972 kaysa sa ngayon eh. Now there's an obligation to explain to the people, and there's a timeline involved," he said.
Ramos sees President Arroyo and Gilberto Teodoro Jr., the administration party's presidential candidate, on a collision course over the Maguindanao massacre. The former president noted the President's alliance with the Ampatuans and Teodoro's closeness with the Mangudadatus.
"The actions by presidential candidate Gibo Teodoro as the standard bearer of the Lakas-Kampi merged party.. is an act of leadership and decision making of the most daring order," Ramos said.
Ramos noted that unlike the President, Teodoro took swift action against the Ampatuans when he expelled them from the ruling party.
Ramos also said he sees parallelisms with events in 1986 with the actions of Lakas-Kampi CMD’s standard bearer in the national elections in May 2010.
“Seemed to me this was like withdrawal of support,” said Ramos recalling the withdrawal of support by then National Defense minister and now senator Juan Ponce Enrile and himself in 1986 which sparked the People Power I which eventually ousted Marcos and installed the late Corazon Aquino as president.
“He was the one who took action backed up by [Lakas-Kampi CMD president Miguel] Migs Dominguez,” said Ramos.
Despite his glowing admiration for Teodoro and displeasure at the current chief executive, the former president would not say if he is already endorsing Teodoro to be the next President of the Philippines.
Ramos said on Saturday that President Arroyo's Proclamation No. 1959 declaring martial law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Maguindanao province was an overreaction and probably an indication of the government's incompetence.
"It appears to me as an overreaction. Very similar to what President Arroyo had done in that situation in Fort Bonifacio, I think it was two years ago -- the so-called February [coup]," Ramos told ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs managing director Maria Ressa at the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Community Conference in Sydney, Australia.
The former president was referring to Mrs. Arroyo's Proclamation 1017, declaring a national state of emergency after a supposed failed coup against her administration in February 2006.
Proclamation 1017 was issued due to alleged threats of coup d'etat against Mrs. Arroyo's administration and an alleged pending clash within the military during the 20th anniversary of the 1986 People Power I revolution.
Ramos said he did not see the need to place Maguindanao province under a state of martial law because government and law enforcement agencies appear to be under control of the situation in the province following the gruesome massacre of 57 people last November 23.
"So, are these agencies that are supposed to enforce the law and serve justice so incompetent that they have to be assisted by a hammerblow by the so-called martial law within that province?" Ramos said.
“Unlike cool Cory Aquino”
The former president also compared President Arroyo to the late former President Corazon Aquino, who survived several coup attempts during her administration.
"People still remember the equanimity and the cool approaches by the late president Cory Aquino, who was attacked, not just 7 times but 9 times in various coup attempts throughout the whole country during the period of her presidency," he said.
Mrs. Arroyo officially declared martial law in the province of Maguindanao on Saturday morning in relation to the November 23 massacre of 57 innocent civilians in the province.
President Arroyo imposed martial law in an effort to rein in the Ampatuan family, a clan that until the massacre had ruled the province with the backing of the ruling coalition.
The decision of President Arroyo to place the province of Maguindanao under martial law has caused uproar and drawn strong condemnations from various sectors.
Leila de Lima, head of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), maintained that the government has no basis in declaring martial law, adding that it “is not what we need right now.”
""There are two factors that must be considered before declaring martial law – rebellion and chaos. This is not what we need right now. What we need is to arrest all suspects and armed men involved in the massacre," De Lima told ABS-CBN News.
No invasion, rebellion
The former president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, meantime, branded Mrs. Arroyo’s move as an “overkill” and illegal.
Lawyer Feliciano Bautista pointed out that there is no invasion and rebellion in Maguindanao, thus, there is no need for the President to issue Proclamation No. 1959.
Nacionalista Party senatorial bet Adel Tamano added that steps on solving the Maguindanao massacre should have been done within legalities.
“The Maguindanao massacre was an outrage but you do not solve it by committing an outrage on the rights of Mindanaoans, specifically those of Muslim Mindanao, by declaring unconstitutional martial law,” he added.
“Extra vigilance needed”
Ilocos Norte 2nd district Rep. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., son of the late strongman, has also urged the public to be “extra” vigilant against a possible nationwide declaration of martial law.
Bishop Bert Calang of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente called on Congress to carefully study Proclamation No. 1959.
Calang feared that President Arroyo might eventually place the entire country under martial law.
United Opposition president and vice-presidential bet Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay also expressed fears that the imposition of martial law in Maguindanao could be a ruse to allow authorities to hunt for evidence of election fraud during the 2004 presidential election.
"There have reports that the Ampatuans have threatened to make the Arroyo administration pay by telling all they know about the massive cheating in the province during the 2004 presidential elections," he said.
"If such reports are true, then this reduces the martial law proclamation into a hunt for evidence of election fraud," he added.
Binay, a human rights lawyer who had been detained when martial law was imposed in 1972, also called for vigilance in the face of government's supposed efforts to downplay the restrictions on human rights.
"It is a supposedly a smiling martial law, without the restrictions that are associated with martial law," he said. "Those of us who lived through, suffered, and fought during the martial law years can attest that there is no such thing as smiling martial law."
Businessmen, meanwhile, are divided over the declaration of martial law in Maguindanao. Many businesses in Maguindanao have closed shop, fearing that violence may erupt in the province flowing the imposition of martial rule.
Some said the declaration may prevent bloodshed, but others also feared that innocent civilians may be arrested.
In Metro Manila, the Makati Business Club (MBC) opposed the imposition of martial law in the province.
The group, which is known to be critical of Mrs. Arroyo, said the declaration may raise fears in the international community.
According to MBC president Alberto Lim, the martial law declaration may be expanded.
But the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), a business group close to the Arroyo administration, said otherwise.
PCCI said martial law may be good for the economy. PCCI President Edgardo Lacson noted that the declaration would ensure peace in key cities such as Davao, General Santos and even Manila.
Lacson added that it would also allay fears of violence that are preventing foreign businesses from investing in the Philippines. –With reports from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News and Francis Magbanua, France Noguera, ABS-CBN News, ANC, and Agence France-Presse