The Lifting of Martial Law; the Need for Vigilance

Martial Law was lifted but Maguindanao is still under state of emergency. With a large concentration of troops still in the province, the lifting of martial law is just on the papers. Civilians are not still free as think they should be. But they have a life to live and they should go on with their daily chores as they have been used to seeing armed men around whether legitimate government forces or mere private armies.

That’s why the joint Congressional session will still have to continue on Monday according to House Speaker Nograles to continue with the 20 hours allotted for the deliberations on Proclamation No. 1959 which placed the province of Maguindanao under martial law. Whether it is already moot and academic Congress will still have to make a resolution since the legality on the declaration of martial law in the province is under question and the public deserves to know about the collective views of our honourable men and women in Congress. Had not Malacanang lifted it earlier, joint-session in Congress was set to vote on the revocation of Martial Law comes Tuesday.

House Speaker Nograles who has always been supportive on the declaration of martial law in Maguindano by president Arroyo said: “The action of Malacañang only affirms our position that martial law in Maguindanao was only declared to ensure the swift restoration of peace and order in the province and quell the escalation of violence in the area.”

But Liberal Party Spokesman Rep. Lorenzo Tanada lll of Quezon has a contrary view on the earlier lifting of martial law Arroyo declared in Maguindanao. “Malacañang wants to pre-empt what Congress may do and what the Supreme Court may say on the legality of the Proclamation 1959. I hope the Supreme Court continues with its hearings and comes out with a decision whether Proclamation 1959 is legal and constitutional or not,” he said.

Critics of the proclamation however maintains that there was no “actual rebellion” to justify the declaration as required under the Constitution. Nevertheless, cause oriented groups and interested people from the public and private sectors are still interested to see the Supreme Court reviews and act on the legality of Proclamation No. 1959.

Bayan Secretary-general Renato Reyes of Bayan smells something fishy on the lifting of martial law before the joint congress could act on the resolution whether to revoke or allow martial law to continue for 60 days. “The lifting may have been the result of the numerous legal and factual loopholes in the declaration that’s now being assailed by a broad range of sectors. It is clear that the declaration was unnecessary. Just the same, we urge the SC to review the factual bases of the declaration, even if martial law has been lifted,” Reyes said.

“Proclamation 1959 sets a dangerous precedent” according to Akbayan Representative Rizza Hontiveros. “It was a trial balloon to check if they can manufacture a rebellion to impose iron rule, and, because Congress dilly-dallied, it turned out that they can. We must hold the government accountable for this abuse of constitutional powers,” Hontiveros said further.

What now that Martial Law is lifted? Of course there are still other suspects that need to be arrested and that the government should pursue filing of criminal cases against them as evidences warrant. There should be not let-up to this till everyone shall be made to pay for their own crime. Meanwhile we need also to secure our freedom, and that we should be vigilant because the president has already shown any time she wants it she could always declare martial law illegally and recalls it before the Congress and the Supreme Court could rule against it.

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