Solon Urges Martial Law in Maguindanao

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Quezon City Rep. Matias Defensor Jr., chairman of the House committee on justice, Sunday asked President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to declare martial law in Maguindanao to “suppress lawless violence” and cause the immediate arrest of the estimated 100 men behind the vicious massacre of close to 60 civilians in the province.Defensor, also chairman of the ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD in Quezon City, said critics should argue against his recommendation “not on the basis of political expediency but on the basis of how Filipinos could best obtain justice for the slain women, journalists and civilians” in the carnage.The veteran lawmaker pointed out that Congress, voting jointly, may revoke within 48 hours the martial law proclamation. He said the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus is also an option to stop bloodshed in Maguindanao.“Under the Constitution, Congress has the power to revoke a proclamation of martial law within 48 hours after it was declared. The Constitution also allows the President to place only Maguindanao under military rule,” Defensor said.Despite the demonstration of national outrage against the massacre of at least 57 persons, including at least 27 journalists and 16 women, no other politician has dared call for either the lifting of the writ of habeas corpus or the declaration of martial law.“Assessing the Maguindanao situation, I think that right now the most reasonable and quickest way to bring back law and order in the province and seek justice for victims of this most despicable act of violence is to place the entire province under martial law,” Defensor stated. “The massacre is a glaring proof of lawless violence that only a declaration of martial law can contain.”He warned that delay in the investigation and arrest of the killers could only derail attempts to seek justice for the victims, adding that witnesses have not come out because of fear of retaliation and lack of confidence in the government’s resolve to place the culprits in jail for good.This developed as Lakas-Kampi-CMD presidential candidate Gilberto "Gibo" Teodoro, Jr. called on the Philippine National Police to immediately order the suspension of the civilian permits to bear firearms outside of residence, particularly in war-torn areas and so-called election hotspots, to prevent another Maguindanao massacre.“Clearly, a January gun ban may be too late since the violence is clearly happening now when candidates file their certificates of candidacy," Teodoro, former defense chief, said.He stressed the need for a “zero-tolerance policy against private armies” for next year’s elections.“By insuring that all authorized firearms are placed under lock and key, the PNP can concentrate on its task of arresting illegal gun owners and private armed groups out to disrupt the coming elections,” the Lakas standard bearer added.Malacanang said it is amenable to the early suspension of permit to carry firearms in election hotspots to prevent any escalation of political violence.Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said putting guns under lock and key could avert a repeat of the Maguindanao carnage and facilitate peaceful automated polls next year.“Malacanang definitely will be supportive of any plans programs or moves to ensure honest orderly peaceful elections,” Remonde said over government radio. “We encourage the police, military especially after what happened in Maguindanao to identify the possible hotspots in Mindanao and work alongside with the Commission on Elections.”Any decision to suspend gun permits of civilians in hotspots rests on the poll body, according to Remonde. The Comelec is expected to implement an election gun ban from January 9, 2010 until June 10, 2010.Another solution to the peace problem is hastening economic development in Mindanao, according to Remonde. …