Friday, December 11, 2009

Conspiracy theory (Miriam sees plot to expand martial law)

December 11, 2009, 6:05pm

Original Story:

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said Friday there appears to be a conspiracy to broaden the coverage of martial law from Maguindanao to the whole country but stressed she does not believe President Arroyo is involved in such cabal.

“This is part of a script. Who are orchestrating the events? It is obvious there is a conspiracy, a meeting of the minds. I have reason to believe that this (conspiracy) is not a random development. They’re not just happening. One, the timing is suspicious, second, there is no such pattern of one after the other in the history of this province,’’ she said.

Santiago issued her statement as Lanao del Norte Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo called on government to declare martial law in his province.

Convinced that martial law is slowly succeeding in dismantling armed groups behind a reign of terror in Maguindanao, Dimaporo urged government to apply the same tactic in Pantao Ragat town under his congressional district.

Dimaporo said the same state of terror experienced by people of Maguindanao exists in Pantao Ragat where a private army allegedly under the command of Vice Mayor Lacson Lantud is lording over.

Dimaporo claimed Lantud’s men are behind a series of gruesome killings that have the same degree of barbarism suffered by the 57 victims of the Maguindanao massacre.

In a briefing for Senate reporters after attending the budget hearing of the Upper Chamber, Santiago said the conspiracy could consist of the beleaguered Ampatuan clan; the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); a cabal of a criminal group that would benefit the secretaries of the Department of National Defense (DND) or Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG); and the military establishment.

The military establishment is the most obvious suspect not necessarily led by the Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales, “but angry young men, the new RAM (Reform the Army Movement) that orchestrates all of these powerful units as they were during the previous martial law, she said.

Santiago is one of the signatories to the Senate resolution, signed by a majority, against the President’s martial law declaration over Maguindanao.

Gonzales, who was at the Senate building to attend the national budget deliberation, told Senate reporters that he is not in favor of martial law “longer than necessary.”

He stressed that it is not true that there is a conspiracy to widen the scope of the martial law, stressing that “we did not invent the massacre (of 57 persons in Maguindanao).”

Gonzales said he would talk to Senator Santiago to clear himself.

Armed Force Chief of Staff Victor Ibrado told Senate reporters that following the hostage-taking in Agusan involving school children that was feared as a continuation of the violence in Maguindanao, there is a need for extended martial law coverage. But he doubts that this incident “lays the groundwork for broader coverage of martial law.

Asked whether the alleged Ampatuan-led violence in Maguindano had the imprimatur of the military, Ibrado said there is no basis for such a report.

“We will never do that na gagawa ng scenario, for what? Unang-una, sa lahat bakit naming gagawin yun, ano? Ako mismo ang magsasabi sa inyo. I will not allow anything like that to be done by anyone,’’ he said.

Santiago stressed that both the Senate and the House of Representatives, in a joint session, should have put the President’s martial law edict to a vote last Tuesday instead of it being forced to move slowly for days, punctuated by the question and answer phase participated in by senators and congress in front of TV cameras.

She expected that the Senate and the Lower House would finally vote to accept or revoke the President’s martial law declaration on Tuesday.

MalacaƱang, meanwhile, is confident Congress will uphold the prerogative of President Arroyo in placing Maguindanao under martial law and suspending the writ of habeas corpus in the province.

“Under the prevailing circumstances in Maguindanao, I sincerely believe Congress and the Supreme Court will uphold the right of the President to declare martial law” said Press Secretary Cerge Remonde.

As this developed, Santiago said the Ampatuans, one of the two strong tribal clans fighting for supremacy in Maguindanao, could be working out a deal where in they would prefer to be charged with the crime of rebellion rather than multiple murder. Rebellion is difficult to prove and carries a lighter penalty. In case of conviction on rebellion charges, Santiago said the Ampatuans could be given parole or pardon.

She said the CIA could become a plain pawn in the Mindanao game “so they could do what the Philippine government is preventing them from doing so.”

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines insisted Friday that the ambush on a joint military and police convoy that was transporting evidence in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao on Thursday night was real and not staged as suspected by some sectors, including some members of Congress.

In a press briefing at Camp Aguinaldo, AFP spokesman, Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner, Jr. said because of the incident, the military has launched several security measures in the province to prevent the occurrence of a similar incident. Chief Superintendent Felicisimo Khu, chief of operations of Central Mindanao Regional Police and concurrent commander of Task Force Alpha, said he and Senior Superintendent Willie Dangane, Cotabato City police chief, were among those on board the six-vehicle convoy that was fired upon at around 8 p.m. Friday.

Khu said they were on their way to General Santos City to transport the guns and ammunition confiscated from the mansion of former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr. when three men suddenly crossed the road in front of the lead vehicle and fired at them.

In a related development, the legal counsel of former Maguindanao Governor Ampatuan Sr. demanded for his client’s release following the lapse of the 72-hour for him to be charged.

Lawyer Philip S. Pantojan, lead legal counsel of the Ampatuans, said the former governor should be released because after the lapse of 72 hours, he had yet to undergo inquest proceedings.

At the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), investigators said four persons said to be eye-witnesses in the November 23 massacre did not fire guns because they were allegedly not “chosen” by Datu Unsay town Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. to shoot the victims, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) official said.

Regional Director Ricardo Diaz, chief of the NBI Counter Terrorism Division (CTU) and concurrent bureau spokesman, said there were about 100 persons who were allegedly at the site of the massacre.

Diaz said the four witnesses said they did not fire because they received no instruction from Ampatuan to shoot. (With reports from Evelyn Quiroz, Aaron B. Recuenco, Sarah Jane R. Hilomen, Jeamma E. Sabate, and Elena L. Aben)

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