Protesters: Martial law helps Ampatuan Clan

Posted at 12/09/2009 8:34 AM | Updated as of 08/04/2010 7:34 PM

SAN FRANCISCO—Chanting, “No way, martial law!” Filipino-American activists marched last night to protest Philippine President Gloria Arroyo’s declaration of martial law in Maguindanao.

Martial law was imposed to speed up the arrest of the perpetrators of the Maguindanao massacre that left some 57 people dead. But the activists say this will only give more power to those who committed the crime.

“We're talking about the same military, the same police who've been implicated in the thousands of killings and abductions and torture.  How are they going to truly enforce justice for the victims of Maguindanao,” said Rhonda Ramiro of Bayan USA.

Protesters believe Arroyo's call for an investigation of the massacre is a ploy to protect the Ampatuans, her political allies.

“How are we going to believe that they're going to do an actual investigation and really do due diligence to get justice for our people when they themselves are connected to these people?” said Angelica Cabande of the San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines.

The protesters say it's not a coincidence that arroyo declared martial law and that she's running for congress.

The activists say one of the ways to end martial law is to stop U.S. aid to the Philippines.  Every year, the U.S. Congress sends over $30 million to the Philippines in military funding. 

“The US government has been sponsoring and financing not just Arroyo and her cronies, but these militias that serve as private armies for Arroyo, as well as for her cronies like the Ampatuans,” said Racquel Redondiez of Gabriela USA.

International human rights watchdogs deplore the death of almost one thousand civilians and the disappearance of more than two hundred people during Arroyo's administration.

The Philippines’ Supreme Court is now considering petitions to lift martial law in Maguindanao. But Arroyo says the discovery of high-powered firearms and ammunition in the possession of the Ampatuan family is a sign of possible armed rebellion and justifies martial law in the area.