Saturday, December 12, 2009

Martial law lifted: State of emergency stays

Sunday, 13 December 2009 00:00

Original Story:

President Gloria Arroyo has lifted martial law in Maguindanao after he government met its primary objectives, a Palace official said on Saturday.
These objectives are the following: disarm and stop the rebellion of Ampatuan supporters, speed up the arrest and filing of criminal charges against suspects involved in the November 23 Maguindanao massacre, secure all witnesses to the massacre and restore the primacy of the civilian government in Maguindanao.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita announced on during a press briefing in MalacaƱang that the martial law imposed in Maguindanao since December 4 will be lifted at 9 p.m., Saturday.

“In view of the accomplishments of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the habeas corpus under Proclamation 1959, the Cabinet has recommended the lifting of martial law which the President has approved,” Ermita said.

Ermita said President Arroyo came up with the decision to remove martial rule in the province after meeting her top security advisers earlier Saturday.

Security officials concluded that the government had achieved its main objectives in Maguindanao province, which was placed under martial rule on December 4 following an election-related violence that left 57 people dead.

Despite the lifting of the martial law, Ermita said the province will remain under a state of emergency where security forces are pursuing more than 2,000 armed followers of a powerful political clan linked to the massacre of 57 people last month.

“We will continue with our operations to track down more than 2,000 gunmen who are followers of the Ampatuan clan. Although the President ordered the lifting of the martial law in Maguindanao, the whole province is still in the state of emergency,” said Col. Jonathan Ponce, a regional army spokesman.

“The rebellion has been addressed . . . Law and order have been restored but the state of emergency continues under Proclamation 1946,” Ermita told reporters.

According to Ermita, the imposition of martial rule crushed rebellion in Maguindanao, three weeks after members of the Ampatuan clan allegedly massacred 57 people, including 30 journalists in Ampatuan town.
Prosecutors were able to file three multiple murder charges before the courts while 247 other charges were referred to the Department of Justice against the Ampatuans and their cohorts.

He added that 24 people were slapped with rebellion charges, while 638 other rebellion cases had been referred to the Justice department.

Sixty two people had been arrested for rebellion, 128 members of the Civilian Volunteer Organizations had surrendered, while 339 others had been placed under the custody of authorities.

The military and the police were able clear the towns of Ampatuan, Rajah Buayan, Sultan Sa Barongis, Datu Unsay, Mamasapano and Shariff Aguak of the rebels’ offensive positions.

The declaration of martial law also restored the criminal justice system in the province as well as the operations of the local government, particularly the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao after the appointment of Ansaruddin Alonto-Adiong as the new governor.

The military said the armed followers of the Ampatuan clan are still a serious threat in the peace and order in Maguindanao. “Unless these people surrender peacefully and lay down their arms, they still pose a great threat to the security of the public in Maguindanao,” Ponce said.

Authorities have charged Andal Ampatuan Jr. and several clan members and followers of multiple counts of murder charges, while his father and brothers, including the governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Zaldy Ampatuan, were also charged with rebellion. The Ampatuans denied all the accusations against them.

Prior to the lifting of martial law, working journalists in Socsargen and Central Mindanao have expressed support to President Arroyo’s declaration of the same in Maguindanao.

The PNP Press Corps in Police Regional Office 12 led by Isaias Golez Jr. based in General Santos City passed a resolution on Thursday expressing support to Presidential Proclamation 1959 to expedite the investigation of the November 23 Maguindanao massacre, disband private armies in Central Mindanao, and bring to justice the perpetrators of the crime.

Eleven members of the PNP Press Corps in Region 12 were among the 57 victims murdered in the Maguindanao massacre allegedly committed by the private armed group of the Ampatuan clan.

The mediamen said “PP [Presidential Proclamation] 1959 is necessary in restoring peace and order in the province of Maguindanao to ensure the safety of the citizenry and bring normalcy to the lives of the people in the area.”

“The public and the families of the Maguindanao massacre victims have been clamoring for an unhampered investigation and swift resolution of the cases filed against known suspects in the killings who belong to a powerful political clan with a phalanx of private armed groups in the province,” the mediamen said.

WITH REPORTS FROM Al Jacinto and Sammy Martin

Original Story:

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