Wednesday, December 9, 2009

REBELLION: Ticket to Freedom

Last Friday, December 4, 2009, by virtue of Proclamation No.1959, the Maguindanao province was put under Martial Law. It came virtually in the dead of the night, the proclamation being signed at 9 pm and formally announced only the next day.

Two weeks after the Maguindanao Massacre, in the face of mounting suspicion of the President's ties with the Ampatuans, the discovery of an arms cache and the public clamor, both national and international, for justice to be served, the de facto President of the Strong Republic finally made a move to remove herself from the ever-expanding frame of the goons, guns and gold drama starring the Ampatuan Clan.

According to the Constitution, in case of a declaration of Martial Law, the President is required to turn in her report, including of course her bases, within 48 hours. Instead of shedding light to the questions raised on the constitutionality and logic behind Proclamation No. 1959, GMA’s report only made the public raise their eyebrows more in disbelief.

There are six WHEREAS clauses which laid the President’s bases for the highly criticized move to declare Martial Law in those areas. Of the six, none was enough for me to justify GMA’s proclamations.

The first clause revealed a previous state of emergency status of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato City a day after the gruesome murders happened in the otherwise serene landscape of Brgy. Saniag, Ampatuan. A state of emergency, then the height of powers GMA has and can exercise, apparently was not enough.

The second clause is much more controversial as it quotes Sec.18 Art.VII of the 1987 Constitution which allows for Martial Law ONLY “in case of invasion or rebellion”. This sits at the very heart of the both the proclamation and the criticisms against it.

What is a rebellion? It is a battle of two forces. One representing the ruling class and the other representing the belligerent class. It is a move to undermine and depose the present government so a new one can be installed. Just as CPP’s exiled leader Jose Ma. Sison or MNLF’s Nur Misuari, as they are the true rebels espousing an ideology very much different from the prevalent one.

Now, what the Ampatuans did is no rebellion. It was the deed of a very spoiled pet who thought it can get away with anything so long as it remains loyal to its master. This reason, or excuse, is absolutely absurd!

Further more, the Ampatuans private army was not established to fight against government troops. Quite the opposite actually, the Ampatuan’s formidable arms cache, complete with APCs, mortars and whatnots, and enough to arm a battalion (or two) was ALLOWED by the government because of an earlier united front against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The government condoned this private army as evidenced by its supply of war material with DND markings and personnel belonging to CVOs and local policemen. They are not rebels out to fight the AFP, they are those that fight ALONGSIDE the AFP against the true rebels in Mindanao. Rebel military man Col. ArielQuerubin is also said to be preparing a statement regarding the AFP’s role in this suspicious arsenal.

Now, the fifth clause about the non-functioning local judiciary system has already been answered and straightened out by Midas Marquez, the high court’s spokesperson. He claimed that the presiding judge has been issuing warrants that week and therefore the judiciary is far from non-functioning.

The report even cited a clause in the GRP-MILF Agreement on the General Cessation of Hostilities which states that any checkpoint put up and maintained by an entity other than the two contracting parties is considered a hostile act. Well, for everyone’s information, never did I see any news item that claims a checkpoint was set up. The victims were flagged down, meaning, they were the only target, as opposed to checkpoints that are supposed to check-out everyone passing by. Furthermore, the only checkpoint that have appeared in the newspapers are those put up and manned by the local police which supposedly received warning from the Ampatauns not to meddle in their affairs.

According to a CPP statement, GMA’s proclamation is self-contradictory as she claims that ‘heavily armed groups in the province of Maguindanao’ is tantamount to rebellion but is actually referring to areas where warlord-politicos reign, not rebels. So, following GMA’s faulty reasoning, she made the decision to impose Martial Law on Maguindanao, EXCEPT for certain areas. These “certain areas” happen to be those falling in MILF’s territory, which is where the real rebellion is.

To bolster and justify the government’s claim that the Ampatuans are rebels who have either already consumated the rebellion or leading a rebellion in the offing’, both contradictory reasons spouted by our venerable acting Justice Secretary Agnes Devabadera, the murderous clan is now called The Ampatuan Rebel Group. Knowing that this is not enough for dissenting minds, they are now concocting a scenario where the ARG and MILF have supposedly joined forces, according to their not so intelligent intelligence reports.

True, simply branding them a rebel group DOES NOT make them one. For true rebels, having the Ampatuans join their ranks must be insulting. The MILF on the other hand being legitimate political dissidents is easily a scapegoat. Because logic dictates that the MILF and the Ampatuans cannot be on the same side of the fence. The government has been for a long time building up the Ampatuans’ army (3,000-4,000 strong according to recent news) precisely to be used against MILF’s own force. As surely as water and oil cannot mix, so will the MILF and the Ampatuan.

The controversial proclamation also begs the question: Is this a calculated move by the President to free the Ampatuans and herself further public condemnation while at the same time going scott-free?

Think about this. Martial Law is only possible if there is an invasion or a rebellion. To justify Proclamation No. 1959, the Amapatuans have been repackaged as the Ampatuan Rebel Group. Rebellion is a political crime. The Philippines being a “democratic” country, political crimes carry much lesser punishments than criminal crimes, because one cannot and should not be judged according to his/her political beliefs. Most importantly, rebellion is a very hard crime to prove.

Let’s take the case of Nur Misuari who only recently was acquitted of rebellion charges. It was filed following an attack of MNLF forces on a military camp in Sulu which left 100 people dead. The prosecution failed to convince the court that it was Misuari himself who led the attack, and the case was junked. This not withstanding that the GRP forged a ceasefire some odd years ago with a recognized BELLIGERENT group that is the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Now Misuari, a free man, has filed his CoC for a gubernatorial slot in Sulu.

If the Ampatuans are being considered as rebels and will be charged as such, murder, illegal possession of firearms and other criminal offenses will be subsumed in the rebellion case.

The same is also true with her majesty, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. With investigations unearthing very suspicious, if not incriminating, evidence in the form of partly burnt election paraphernalia including ballot boxes, voters’ registration forms and voters’indentification cards, the ghost of elections past hounds the administration again. We will remember that back in 2004 and the 2007 elections, Maguindanao figured very prominently in it, eventually becoming the clinching factor in highly contested positions such as the presidency and the 12th seat in the Senate. In 2004, the votes from Maguindanao secured for GMA the presidency. A year later, the “Hello, Garci” tapes surfaced which has recorded GMA’s unmistakable voice asking a person, assumend to be Garcillano, a Comelec Commissioner, to assure her that she will win the elections with by least a million votes. Maguindanao delivered the votes that crushed FPJ’s bid. Lintang Bedol, the election official in that province went into hiding. In 2007, again Maguindanao proves true to its allegiance, allowing for a sweeping victory of the administration’s senatorial slate in its province, and making Chavit Singson the number 1 senatoriable even if it is not his bailwick.

Moreover, ever since the Ampatuans rose to political prominence, it has cast its bet on the AFP versus the MILF. By being “force multipliers”, the private army of the Ampatuans is actually a state-recognized and armed Civilian Volunteer Organizations. The mind-boggling arsenal the Ampatuans are keeping all over Maguindanao is being condoned by the government itself.

It cannot be denied, declaring Martial Law two weeks after the murder and in the midst of very controversial findings reeks of political maneuvering. It is a win-win situation for both GMA and the Ampatuan Clan. Martial Law deflects many tender issues surrounding the ties between GMA and the Ampatuan Clan. On the other hand, the criminal acts of the Ampatuans get elevated to being political crimes and absolve them of criminal accountability. If this despicable arrangement manages to escape revocation with help of the Lower House, the only loser in this equation is the Filipino public.

This unneccessary and unconstitutional localized Martial Law and rebellion charges against the alleged masterminds of the gruesome Maguindanao Massacre and very close allies of the President, seems to be a convoluted plit to exonerate both guilty parties. It is a classic case of saving one’s hide and preventing a domino-effect where GMA, in all probability, will go down with the Ampatuans when the latter starts ratting on everything and anything they know of. This Martial Law maybe a prelude to something bigger. This could also very well be their ticket to freedom.

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