Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This was published in the December 09, 2009 edition of the Business Mirror, page A6.

Last weekend, Gloria Arroyo placed the province of Maguindanao under martial law, “except for the identified areas of the MILF.” I’m confused. I thought the MILF were rebels and the Ampatuans were her friends.

The Ampatuans must be confused as well. They thought Gloria appreciated what they had done for her in previous elections. They thought she understood that the massacre happened because they wanted to ensure the cozy relationship between them would remain undisturbed by local rivalries. What happened?

Ellen Tordesillas of Vera Files blogged that North Cotobato Vice-Governor Manny Piñol said the Ampatuans were threatening to reveal what they knew about the 2004 elections.

“Ang sabi ng ibang mga miyembro ng Ampatuan clan, kung bibitawan sila ni Pangulong Arroyo, sasabihin din nila ang lahat,” Piñol said.

Tordesillas added she heard rumors that the Ampatuans were still in possession of the original documents from the 2004 elections. Blackmail material.

No wonder Gloria Arroyo declared martial law despite the fact that the military, just a few days earlier, said there was no need for it.

“There is no need for the declaration of martial law in the area of Maguindanao or elsewhere in the country because the AFP and the Philippine National Police are on top of the situation,” said Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner.
The AFP spokesman added, “We now have a level of normalcy in the province of Maguindanao primarily because of the occupation by our government forces and our law enforcement agencies of the seats of government.”

Last Saturday, Gloria Arroyo made a liar out of Brawner. She said,

“Whereas, heavily armed groups in the province of Maguindanao have established positions to resist government troops, thereby depriving the Executive of its powers and prerogatives to enforce the laws of the land and to maintain public order and safety.”

“Whereas, whereas the condition of peace and order in the province of Maguindanao has deteriorated to the extent the local judicial system and other government mechanisms in the province are not functioning, thus endangering public safety.”

So the military and the police were not on top of the situation, conditions were so bad courts could not function?

Not true, said Midas Marquez, spokesman of the Supreme Court. He pointed out that the Kidapawan Regional Trial Court issued search warrants for the Ampatuan residences.  “This is far from a picture of a non-performing judicial system,” he said.

So Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera said now was not the time to question the legality of martial law. Now was the time for the government to act. The administration will carry out its duties under the presumption that Congress will not revoke the martial law proclamation and that the Court will not rule it illegal. I’m hoping, albeit with trepidation, that Devanadera is correct and the massacre victims will get justice.

Raissa Robles, a reporter for the South China Morning Post, blogged about a glaring error in the proclamation.

“Citing the wrong law as the legal basis shows that this martial law is so sloppily put together. I fear the suspected murderers can get away with murder by exploiting precisely this sloppiness.
“In this instance, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Proclamation 1959 using the following as her basis for declaring Martial Law:
• the Constitution and
• Republic Act 6986.
“But RA 6986 happens to be “An Act establishing a high school in Barangay Dulop, municipality of Dumingag, province of Zamboanga del Sur, to be known as the Dulop High School, and appropriating funds therefore.” Ouch!

Somehow I get the feeling that the Ampatuans are going to get away with murder, with a little help from their friend.