Martial law in Maguindanao criticized

Posted at 12/05/09 8:49 AM

MANILA - A human rights lawyer and a congressman representing Maguindanao on Saturday criticized  President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for setting a bad precedent by declaring martial law in Maguindanao despite the absence of rebellion or invasion in the province.

Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) lawyer Manuel Diokno told ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) that the 1987 Constitution allows for the declaration of martial law if there is rebellion or invasion.

In this case, he said martial law was declared on the basis of the mass murders that happened November 23. He warned this would set a bad precedent for the country.

Maguindanao Rep. Didagen Dilangalen, interviewed on ANC on Saturday, expressed the same view.

Dilangalen said the government can only declare martial law if there is rebellion or invasion.

"The basis for the declaration does not exist," he said.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita announced on Saturday morning the declaration of martial law in Maguindanao province, except in areas held by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) separatists.

Dilangalen said it was ironic that martial law does not apply in areas of the MILF where rebellion exists.

He insisted that there is no rebellion in Maguindanao, adding that the suspects in the November 23 massacre are actually allies of the government.

Members of the Ampatuan family linked to the murders were allies of President Arroyo prior to the massacre. They were expelled from the ruling party after the carnage.

"Is there shooting going on? No. Has there been bombings after the massacre? No," Dilangalen said.

On armed groups allegedly converging to opposed the arrest of the other Ampatuans linked to the murders, Dilangalen said the government can just direct the police to address this problem.

Dilangalen warned that there was a “grand scenario” behind the martial law declaration. He did not elaborate.

He said that if the president can do it in Maguindanao, she can also declare martial law in other provinces using bases not allowed by the Constitution.