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News Release

December 13, 2009


Reference: Atty. Arnedo Valera, Never Again to Martial Law (NAML), email: neveragaintomartiallaw@gmail.com


US COALITION AGAINST MARTIAL LAW CLAIMS VICTORY WITH LIFTING OF PROCLAMATION 1959 AND VOWS TO PURSUE ALL DEMANDS


Never Again to Martial Law (NAML), a US coalition launched on Human Rights Day opposing martial law in Maguindanao, is calling the lifting of Proclamation 1959 a victory for all those who condemned President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s declaration. NAML will continue to build its network on the ground nationally to call for a full restoration of civilian authority and the removal of all vestiges of martial rule in Maguindanao and other parts of the Philippines.

NAML believes the building pressure in the Philippines and internationally on Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) to lift martial law played a part in her decision.

“The lifting of Proclamation 1959 is a way for GMA to save face. International awareness about GMA’s arming of her warlord allies and the illegality of her declaration of martial law is growing. She may have lifted martial law to avoid embarrassment and questions at the upcoming Copenhagen conference and other international fora,” said Dr. Dante Simbulan, an NAML convenor and former political prisoner under Marcos.

In addition, NAML will remain on guard, preparing for the possibility of the re-imposition of martial law in Maguindanao or in other parts of the Philippines. “We believe GMA may have declared martial law to ‘test the tolerance,’ so to speak, of the Filipino people and the international community for it. For all we know, we could see it re-emerge in another form in the future. We must remember Marcos also lifted martial law temporarily in 1981 around the visit of the Pope to the Philippines,” said Atty. Arnedo Valera, international human rights lawyer.

NAML convenors    will also focus efforts on ensuring a clean and honest elections throughout the Philippines in May 2010 and lobbying within the US given the attention drawn to the Arroyo administration’s practice of arming “death squads.”

According to Professor Ligaya McGovern of Indiana University, “We must remember that with or without martial law, there exists a climate of repression and impunity in the Philippines that allows for gruesome acts like the Maguindanao massacre to occur. We will continue to do what is needed to stop human rights violations and to achieve justice for the victims of the massacre and all other victims of human rights in the Philippines.”

NAML will continue to generate signatures on its petition and to build local NAML chapters.

To view the petition, go to http://www.gopetition.com/online/32771.html


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. ###

PRESS STATEMENT Reference:  Marie Hilao-Enriquez

November 26, 2009                                            Chairperson, Mobile No. 09175616800

Inaction on and tolerating human rights violations abet crimes such as the Maguindanao massacre

KARAPATAN condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the massacre of 57 civilians which included media persons and two women lawyers in Maguindanao, on November 23, 2009.

Early this year, the human rights alliance has warned of escalating violence as extrajudicial killings have continued despite declarations from the Arroyo government that it is adhering to the recommendations of the UNSR on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Prof. Philip Alston; and as the government-pronounced deadline of ending the insurgency comes to a close in 2010, which is also an election year..

The Maguindanao massacre was an event waiting to happen with the continued implementation of this criminal government’s anti-insurgency program, Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL).  Under OBL, the recruitment of para-military groups such as the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU), CAFGU Active Auxiliary (CAA) and Civilian Volunteer Organization (CVO’s) as well as the arming of these individuals have persisted and in fact have been resorted to by the government in its mad design of purportedly “ending the insurgency by 2010.”  Such groups, which have been placed under the supervision and effective control of the military, have been tagged, together with the latter and the police, as responsible for various human rights violations happening around the country.

With this counter-insurgency program, so many victims, easily labeled as “fronts”  of “communist organizations”  and “enemies of the state”  have turned up dead, killed in a brutal manner and some disappeared; with the Arroyo government doing nothing to stop the killings, disappearances and other human rights violations.  In fact, it even heaped praises for known perpetrators identified with these crimes.  Under this counter-insurgency scheme, the Arroyo government has become the biggest warlord in the land.

Now the country is jolted by a brutal crime ostensibly committed by a private army of a warlord in one of the so-called election hotspots in the country.  The public is now witness to the barbaric impunity by which the perpetrators can kill and even try to hide the crime as if no law can be applied to prevent them from committing such a brutal act in broad daylight, hiding even such evidences as vehicles with the use of government properties!

For far too long has this regime considered itself a law above the citizens, contravening the laws laid out in the legal instruments of the land so much so that its coddled political allies have imbibed the mindset that they, too, can commit such transgressions with impunity.  Thus, on Monday, these perpetrators have been emboldened to commit the carnage that shocked the world. Such is the result of condoning and tolerating human rights violations.

The public must not allow this government to just relegate such a heinous crime as this massacre of civilians into a mere election-related offense. We must not allow a whitewash of the investigation on this dastardly act especially in the face of the declarations of this regime to get the perpetrators of the crime. We demand for a thorough, diligent investigation, arresting and initiating prosecution proceedings against the known perpetrators of this crime.

We call on the Arroyo government to immediately disband the paramilitary units of the AFP and private armies of warlords and politicians and stop the Oplan Bantay Laya counter-insurgency program as its method to eradicate the festering insurgency in the land.  This strategy is only engendering crimes against humanity.

JUSTICE FOR THE VICTIMS OF THE MAGUINDANAO MASSACRE!

JUSTICE FOR ALL VICTIMS OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS UNDER THE ARROYO REGIME!

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KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties.  It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.  It was established in 1995.