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Press Statement

December 5, 2009

Statement on the declaration of Martial Law in Maguindanao

The declaration of a state of Martial Law in Maguindanao sets a most dangerous precedent for the nation. Not since September 21, 1972 has there been any declaration of Martial Law, not even during the years of tumult under the Aquino, Estrada and, prior to this, the Arroyo regime. For the first time since 1972, the writ of habeas corpus has been suspended in an area in the Philippines.

We reiterate our call for justice for the victims of the Ampatuan Massacre but we cannot support measures that are both dangerous and questionable.

The alleged purpose of Proclamation 1959 is the arrest of the Ampatuan family members who are implicated in the November 23 Ampatuan, Maguindanao massacre. The regime justifies the declaration in saying that civilian institutions, especially the courts, are no longer functioning and that the dispensation of justice would not be possible.

The Constitution says Martial Law can only be declared during an invasion or during a rebellion. The failure of civilian government institutions, as in the case of the local government offices and courts in Maguindanao, cannot be used as a pretext for declaring Martial Law. The difficulty of gathering evidence, securing warrants and enforcing arrests also cannot be used as a basis for the declaration.

We demand the lifting of Martial Law in Maguindanao and the restoration of the civilian government institutions. Martial Law cannot solve the problem of state-sponsored warlordism and violence in the province. Martial Law will always lead to abuses because those implementing it, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, have very poor human rights records.

The national government must endeavor to restore the civilian administrative and judicial institutions in the province.

If Mrs. Arroyo refuses to lift the declaration, we call on Congress to exercise its powers to revoke Martial Law. Mrs. Arroyo is required by the Constitution to report to Congress within 48 hours. It falls on Congress, though dominated by Arroyo loyalists, to revoke this dangerous declaration. We must not wait for the maximum 60-day period allowed by the Constitution for the enforcement of martial rule. The leaders of the Lower House and Senate must convene within 24 hours to address this issue.

That Martial Law has been declared in a province less than six months before the national elections raises fresh fears that similar scenarios can also follow, thus severely undermining the conduct of the 2010 polls to benefit the incumbent president. We must not allow this scenario to be replicated in other regions for whatever pretexts. If Arroyo can declare martial law for reasons not defined in the constitution, imagine what she can do before the 2010 elections.

The Arroyo regime and its police and military have to be made accountable for its role in arming the Ampatuan family. The recently discovered arms cache in the Ampatuan residence shows the complicity of the AFP, PNP and the regime in supplying weapons to the local warlords. With this kind of track record, how do you trust the AFP and PNP with the vast powers of Martial rule? This kind of corruption and complicity cannot be solved by the declaration of Martial rule. l

We have learned the bitter lessons of Martial Law even as we are acutely aware of the propensity for abuse by the current regime. As we continue to demand justice for the victims of the Ampatuan massacre, we call on the public to remain vigilant at this time against possible abuses on civilians that may stem from this declaration. ###

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Reference: Raquel Redondiez, Chair, GABRIELA USA, gabrielawomen@gmail.com

GABRIELA USA CONDEMNS PERPETRATORS OF THE AMPATUAN MASSACRE, AND HOLDS GMA ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE STATE OF WARLORDISM AND CLIMATE OF IMPUNITY IN THE PHILIPPINES

The election-related carnage on the eve of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW) took the lives of 57 people, 14 women including
2 women lawyers and 17 journalists

San Francisco, CA–10 years ago, a United Nations Assembly resolved to recognize November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW) to work towards the end of violence affecting women all over the world. GABRIELA USA members from San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles and New York are taking this day to remember the significance of this international effort to raise awareness about women’s issues in the light of the horrific massacre which took place in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, in the island of Mindanao.

The death toll is rising in the massacre of unarmed civilians included lawyers, journalists, and at least 14 women who were not only murdered but also raped, mutilated and beheaded. The bodies were found buried on shallow ground on the side of the road where the 6 vehicle convoy carrying the victims were stopped in broad daylight on November 23rd. The victims where on their way to file election paperwork with the Commission on Elections to challenge the ruling political clan in the upcoming elections.

This incident cannot be separated from the thousands of other human rights violations committed under the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) regime, wherein hundreds of women activists, leaders and community members have been killed, abducted, tortured and disappeared with impunity.

Arroyo’s share of responsibility for this massacre is certain as she has repeatedly facilitated and funded armed clan-based militias, utilizing US military aid, and has created the state of impunity in the Philippines where her close political allies could conceive of
carrying out such a heinous crime in broad daylight.  In fact, until today, no arrests has been made in the horrific crime, despite the
fact, or because of the fact, that the tractor used to hide the bodies belongs to the local government, controlled by the Ampatuans, GMA’s close allies.

The UN Declaration for the Elimination of Violence Against Women calls for all forms violence, including those condoned by the State. GMA must be held accountable, and we must be vigilant in continuing to demand the arrest, thorough investigation, and prosecution of the perpetrators of the Maguindanao massacre. Many believe that the massacre was perpetrated by 100 men led by Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., of the Ampatuan clan, which delivered what has been dubbed as the “Maguindanao Miracle” a 100% of the votes for GMA’s slate in the 2007 elections.

Moreover, we must continue to struggle against GMA’s anti-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya II, which provides license for state-sponsored violence against anyone who asserts their democratic rights.  This U.S.-sponsored plan, which calls for the extermination of the “communist insurgency” by 2010, is a formula for continuing impunity for the military and military-sponsored civilian militias to commit human rights violations, especially against those they label as “community-fronts”.

On this 10th anniversary of IDEVAW, GABRIELA- USA recommits to demand an end to U.S. military and financial aid to the GMA regime, who we hold accountable for the illegal abduction and torture of Filipino American woman Melissa Roxas in May of this year, and hundreds of other human rights violations against women and children.

The women of GABRIELA-USA believe that the Ampatuan Massacre is a foreshadow of an escalation in the violence and human rights violations to be expected this election season, and should be a reminder for all, including the international community, to
participate in ensuring clean and honest elections.

This IDEVAW, GABRIELA USA condemns the relentless violence of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime against the Filipino people, especially women and children.  We stand in solidarity with women worldwide who are facing violence and will continue fighting for the day in which aggression towards women will no longer be tolerated.  And we will work pro-actively to support the election of genuine women’s representatives who will be our partners in this effort.

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