Press Release
December 5, 2009


Opposition Sen. Francis Escudero on Saturday said the imposition of martial law in Maguindanao is legally defective and expressed concern that it could be a prelude to dictatorial rule.

"I hope this is not the case of Maguindanao today, the Philippines tomorrow," he said.

The opposition senator pointed out that Section 18, Article 7 explicitly states that only in case of invasion or rebellion, and when the public safety requires it, can the commander-in-chief exercise the extreme option of declaring martial law.

"These are not obviously present in Maguindanao," he said. "The current state of emergency would have sufficed to address the clamor for justice for the massacre victims and restore the rule of law in the province."

Escudero added that he does not remember any time in his life when a military commander was asked to take over a civilian elective position.

He also pointed out that former President Estrada did not have to impose martial law when he launched an all-out war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2000.

"The theater of war then included Maguindanao and even parts of Lanao del Sur, del Norte, and North Cotabato. But he did not declare martial law," said Escudero.

"For the longest time, this government has tolerated and promoted warlordism in Mindanao. Now, it seeks to be a warlord to undo what it has done," Escudero noted.

"On its face, the declaration of martial law in Maguindanao is legally defective. The President's decision as well to suspend the writ of habeas corpus even during martial law is highly irregular. I am sure that Congress will act on this matter without delay."

The senator urges all military and police commanders to make sure that human rights are respected during the 60-day period decreed by the constitution if Congress does not revoke the martial law proclamation. The President is required to submit a report to Congress within 48 hours from the declaration of martial law or the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.

"I will oppose any attempt to use this tragic and reprehensible incident to prevent the truth about these arms caches and documents that may related to electoral fraud from coming out through the imposition of martial law. I call on the people to be vigilant and to resist moves by those who seek to rule beyond 2010."

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