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PIA Press Release
2009/12/05

[Update] PGMA proclaims martial law to ease deteriorating order, peace in Maguindanao

Manila (December 5) -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has declared martial law in the province of Maguindanao in the evening of December 4 in preparation for the arrest of several key personalities implicated in the November 23 massacre of 57 people, including 30 journalists.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita in a statement read early morning of Saturday, informed about Proclamation No. 1959 proclaiming 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.

Secretary Ermita said that 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.

Secretary Ermita said President Arroyo decided to declare martial law because "heavily armed groups in the province of Maguidanao have established positions to resist govenrment 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 14, peace and order in the province continued to deteriorate "to the extent that local judicial system and other government mechanisms are not functioning."

With the imposition of martial law, the military will now temporarily take over in running the provincial government. While martial law is in effect, Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao commander, will take over from Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., one of the suspects in the massacre, as the provincial military governor.

At present, there are already six battalions of government forces deployed in the entire province of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, and Cotabato City. With the imposition of martial law, the military will now temporarily take over in running the provincial government.

Of the six battalions of military troops, three are concentrated in Shariff Aguak, the capital of Maguindanao and where the main mansions of the Ampatuans are located. One mechanized battalion with more than a dozen Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) are also in Shariff Aguak.

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."

Under the Constitution, "Congress, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its Members in regular or special session, may revoke such proclamation or suspension, which revocation shall not be set aside by the President."

The charter also states that on the president's initiative, Congress may also "extend such proclamation or suspension for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it."

When previously asked about martial law in the south, House Speaker Prospero Nograles, said last Monday "This issue must be recommended by the National Security cluster group and the military on the ground to enable the president to correctly assess the situation."

Nograles said Congress may find it hard to convene and assess the declaration of martial law. (PIA 8) [top]

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