Philippines: PGMA lifts martial law in Maguindanao

News and Press Release
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by the Presidential News Desk

Manila (12 December) -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo lifted martial law and restored the writ of habeas corpus in Maguindanao, effective 9 p.m. today or exactly eight days after signing Proclamation Order 1959.

The state of emergency remains in the provinces of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat and the city of Cotabato.

The President concurred with the assessment of her Cabinet, who are also members of the National Security Council (NSC) that "the conditions that prompted martial law in the province have already been met," said Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.

In his briefing at 4 p.m., Ermita said the appropriate proclamation order lifting martial law will be drafted by Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera for the president's approval and then transmitted to both houses of Congress.

The eight-day martial law in Maguindanao was lifted after its objectives have been met. These are: murder and rebellion charges have been filed; arrests have been made; armed groups that have posed a threat to the security of the province have been removed; the criminal justice system has been restored; and the local government functions have been reinstated.

Ermita said three were charged with multiple murders and 247 persons have been referred to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for criminal investigation; 24 were charged for rebellion while 638 others were referred to the DoJ.

"You can be sure that with the available witnesses, we shall be able to identify other people involved in rebellion," Ermita said.

The joint forces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have arrested 62 for rebellion and referred 128, including civilian voluntary officers who surrendered and 339 others now in the custody of DoJ or a total of 529 arrests.

AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Victor Ibrado said the AFP and PNP have found abandoned rebel positions-those previously occupied by the armed groups-but continues to closely monitor the province.

The civilian government, will be headed by presidential appointee Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Ansaruddin Adiong.

He will be assisted by Presidential Adviser for Mindanao Jesus Dureza said he will meet Monday with the donor community which earlier withdrew the support from the province.

Ibrado said the lifting of martial law does not preclude the total pullout of military troops in the province and that its 4,000 troops "are sufficient to control any grouping that may happen later there." They consist of six Infantry battalions (IBs); two mechanized IBs; and one special operations command battalion.

PNP Chief Gen. Jesus Versoza said local police forces will closely coordinate with the AFP, including the manning of the checkpoints to monitor the movements of people.

Devanadera explained that the lifting of martial law will not affect the multiple murder and rebellion charges filed against the six Ampatuans, led by former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan, Sr. She confirmed that cases against the Ampatuans will be heard in Quezon City, even with the restoration of the criminal justice system in Maguindanao. (OPS)