Press Release
December 9, 2009

(Statement of Sen. Nene Pimentel at the House of Representatives, December 9, 2009)

Today, we celebrate the 61st anniversary of the UN declaration of human rights.

Today, we mourn not only the massacre of the roughly 57 citizens of this country last November 23 in Maguindanao and ghastly snuffing out of their human rights.

We also bewail the inappropriate response of the government that proclaimed martial law in Maguindanao.

The Constitution clearly requires the existence of an invasion or rebellion that demands the protection of public safety before martial law may be declared.

There was no invasion in Maguindanao.

There was no rebellion in Maguindanao that could even remotely be connected with the massacre of the innocent individuals in Maguindanao on November 23.

The victims were not doing anything contrary to law. One victim was the wife of Toto Mangundadatu. The others were women lawyers and journalists. They were travelling along the highway on the way to the office of the Commission on Elections of the province to do a perfectly legal act: the wife to file the certificate of candidacy of her husband, Toto Mangundadatu, for governor of Maguindanao. The others, to witness, record and report the event as media practitioners.

They were unable to do what they had set out to do. They were fired upon and killed. They could not even fire back because I understand they were unarmed.

The ambushers were later identified as led by Andal Ampantuan Jr., mayor of the municipality of Unsay, a son of Governor Andal Ampatuan of Maguindanao.

The killers were in military or police uniform. They were reportedly members of the Civilian Volunteers Organization, a paramilitary unit, that is supposed to help in the maintenance of law and order in the areas of their assignment.

In the Maguindanao incident we speak of, they did not maintain law and order. They broke the law and created disorder.

Hence, the reaction of the government in proclaiming martial law while appealing to those who want blood for blood is not exactly in conformity with the intent of the Constitution that has wisely calibrated its lawful response to the challenges against the governmental authority of the Republic.

If Governor Andal Ampatuan and his son, Andal Jr., were responsible for the gruesome deed, he and his son and those that acted on their orders may be brought before the bar of justice even without martial law being proclaimed.

They can be suspended, disarmed, arrested, investigated prosecuted and convicted according to law.

And if the suspension, disarming, arresting, investigating, prosecuting and convicting of the Ampatuans could not be done simply a sheriff serving the pertinent orders on them, then, a battalion of law enforces could be mobilized to effect the proper warrants.

However, the government has done what it did: proclaimed martial law over Maguindanao.

It has accomplished through methods of martial law what could have been done without it.

The Ampatuans - Governor Andal, Mayor Andal Jr., and even Zaldy, the governor of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao are now under the custody of the military or police authorities.

Their palatial mansions were raided. Guns, ammunitions, election paraphernalia including ballot boxes, and for all I know cash in the millions was also confiscated.

Will we know the truth of what happened to the Ampatuans and their weapons and wealth after the law enforcers were through with them pursuant to the mandate of martial law that they were following?

I am not too sure that we will ever do.

For one thing, the unstated main target of martial law is to silence the truth.

The truth about the collusion between the Ampatuans and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in frustrating the will of the people in the elections of 2004.

The truth about the symbiotic relationship between the Ampatuans and the Gloria Macapagal administration to suppress the electoral will of the people of Maguindanao in the 2007 elections.

The truth about the scratch-my-back-I-scratch yours kind of liaison between some highly placed officers of the armed forces and the police that made the Ampatuans, the most feared warlords of the area. In the process, thousands of highpowered guns and ammunition and reportedly even armoured vehicles found their way into the hands of the Ampatuans.

And with so much power, so much wealth followed as a matter of course. This is evidenced by widely circulated mass media reports that the Ampatuans have 27 mansions in many places in the country.

So much power and wealth combined backed up unwittingly perhaps by the imposition of martial law, what chance does the ordinary man on the street have to contest his arrest and detention on the mere say so of a law enforcer?

Go to court, one can say. So easily said. So difficult to do if one is poor, powerless and ill-connected.

Will we ever know the truth about the way martial law has been implemented in Maguindanao?

Most likely we will never know the whole truth especially about the violations of human rights that follow from the use of such enormous power by a President who from all indications do not care about the niceties of the law.

And I speak from experience. Having been arrested and detained four times during the martial law of the Marcos regime, I can say with some degree of authority: the sooner we end the martial law state of affairs in Maguindanao, the better for our people.

It is for that purpose that I move that we revoke the martial law proclamation. After all, from all indications, it seems to have achieved its purpose.

Let us not make the lives of our people in Maguindanao more complicated than it already is.

Let us not allow the sins of one Moro family adversely affect the rights and liberties of the rest of the Moro peoples of Mindanao.

Let us uphold the Constitution and respect the law. Restore civilian rule in Maguindanao. Revoke the martial law proclamation.

Thank you.

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