The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is seeking your support in calling upon the members of the Philippine Congress to revoke Proclamation No. 1959, which has been signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and has declared a state of martial law in Maguindanao. It suspends the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, and allows warrantless arrest and searches. Members of the Philippine Senate and the House of Representatives are reportedly due to meet tomorrow on 8 December to decide whether to revoke the proclamation.
On 4 December at 9pm President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Proclamation No 1959, proclaiming a state of martial law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in much of Maguindanao. It was officially announce to the public by President Arroyo’s executive secretary, Eduardo Ermita, during a press conference at 7am the following day, on December 5.
Even before the proclamation was made known to the public, the military and the police had begun arresting persons that they have claimed are involved in the November 23 Maguindanao Massacre, which saw 57 people killed, including two human rights lawyers and 30 journalists. For more details, please read: AHRC-UAC-165-2009 and AHRC-STM-235-2009.
Those arrested after the martial law proclamation include Andal Ampatuan Sr., the father of the alleged mastermind, Andal Ampatuan Jr, and his three sons, Zaldy Ampatuan, governor of the Autonomous Regional in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM); Anwar Ampatuan, town mayor of Shariff Aguak in Maguindanao; and Sajid Ampatuan.
But apart from the Ampatuans, the police and the military took custody of 60 or so people, most of them male civilians, without properly informing them of the reasons for their detention. Their wives and children had to accompany the arrestees to the provincial headquarters of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, where they are being held. Some have not been properly informed of the charges before being subjected to questioning.
Under Article 7, section 18 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution the president has the power to declare martial law and allow warrantless arrests, detention and searches, but only in the ‘case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it’. The AHRC believes that this incident does not have those elements. Please read the AHRC’s statement regarding this: AHRC-STM-238-2009
The 1987 Constitution also requires the president to submit a report within 48 hours from the commencement of the proclamation to the Philippine Senate and House of Representatives, explaining the reasons for the declaration and the actions they have taken. Yesterday on 6 December at around 9pm the President’s executive secretary, Eduardo Ermita, submitted the 20-page report to Juan Ponce Enrile, president of the Philippine Senate; and Prospero Nograles, speaker of the House of Representatives. Under the Constitution, the Senate and the House of Representative has the power to either allow the martial law for 60 days or revoke it after deliberating on the report.
The AHRC is deeply concerned that the fundamental principles of human rights, which are protected even under conditions of emergency and martial law, have already been abandoned. We urge your intervention to call upon the members of the Philippine Senate and House of Representative to unequivocally revoked Proclamation No. 1959, and operate under the rule of law.
Not only are the justifications for the proclamation and its results devoid of constitutionality, but the police and the military have already started to abandon the fundamental principles on criminal procedures and protection of rights. Some of those arrested have already been deprived of their right to a fair trial, equality before the law and the principles of legality in the field of criminal law–these are fundamental rights that cannot be derogated for any reason. With this proclamation the police and military have instead obtained blanket impunity.
Please write letters to the members of the Philippine Senate and the House of Representative asking them to revoke Proclamation No. 1959.
The AHRC has also written to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Working Group on arbitrary detention.
To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER
PHILIPPINES: An appeal to the Philippine Congress to revoke the martial law in Maguindanao province
I am writing to express my concern regarding the issuance of Proclamation No. 1959, which has declared a state of martial law and has suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, except in some areas, in the province of Maguindanao in southern Philippines.
I understand that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Proclamation No. 1959 on December 4. Under Article 7 section 18 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, and that she has the power to declare a state of martial law. However I am deeply concerned that the constitutional justifications for martial law have not been met.
Firstly the Constitution clearly requires that only in ‘case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it’ can martial law be declared. I have learned that the declaration was prompted by the police’ difficulty in arresting those involved in the Maguindanao massacre, in particular the Ampatuans, a powerful political clan, who have been accused of having involvement in the massacre.
Yet it is unacceptable that, for reasons of certain police difficulties in arresting, detaining and of conducting searches in a certain case, that martial law had to be declared. I believe that these are failures of rudimentary police duties, and should not require such an action.
Although the Maguindanao massacre, which killed 57 people, is a crime and a human rights violation of unprecedented significance in the Philippines, to abandon the principles of legality to resolve it is unacceptable. The fundamental rights of the people of Maguindanao, which covers 36 towns and with a population of over 1 million, should have not been undermined in prosecuting the perpetrators.
Secondly, few hours after the martial law was declared, over 47 or so people, most of them male civilians, were taken in police custody to the provincial police headquarters in Ampatuan, Maguindanao; few informed of the charges laid on them before being detained in police and military custody, and subjected to questioning, without the legal counsel of their choice. A fair trial, equality before the law, and the principles of legality in criminal procedures are fundamental rights that should have been observed, even during martial law.
I therefore urge you to uphold the protection of fundamental of rights by unequivocally and immediately revoking Proclamation 1959. I am deeply concerned that if this does not happen, the police and the military will continue to commit illegal acts and violate fundamental rights with impunity.
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
1. Senator Juan Ponce Enrile
Rm. 606 6th Flr., GSIS Bldg., Financial Center
Roxas Blvd., Pasay City
Tel: +63 2 552 6690 / 552 6691
2. Senator Richard Gordon
Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations
Rm. 509 5th Flr., GSIS Bldg., Financial Center,
Tel: +63 2 552 6793 / 552 6719
Fax No.: (632) 552-6719
3. Senator Francis “Chiz” G. Escudero,
Committee on Justice and Human Rights
GSIS Bldg., Financial Center
4. Senator Benigno S. Aquino III,
Committee on Local Government
Rm. 526 5th Flr., GSIS Bldg., Financial Center
Tel.: +63 2 833 6383
Telefax No.: +63 2 552 6601 local 5540
5. Senator Pia S. Cayetano
Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development
Rm. 505 5th Flr., GSIS Bldg., Financial Center, Roxas Blvd
Direct Lines: (632) 552-6683 / (632) 552-9003
6. Senator Rodolfo G. Biazon,
National Defense and Security
Rm. 527 5th Flr., GSIS Bldg., Financial Center, Roxas Blvd.
Tel.: +63 2 552 6772 / 551-7344 / 551 7353
7. Prospero Nograles
House of Representatives
Rm. RVM-410, House of Representatives
Tel.: +63 2 931 5001 local 7019 / 951 8945
8. Lorenzo Tanada, III
Committee on Human Rights
Rm. N-409, House of Representatives,
Tel: +63 2 931 5001 local 7368, 931 6478
9. Yusop Jikiri
Committee on Peace. Reconciliation and Unity
Rm. S-407, House of Representatives
Tel.: +63 2 931 5001 local 7248, 9315691
10. Matias Defensor Jr.
Committee on Justice
Rm. N-303, House of Representatives,
11. Pedro Romualdo
Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability
Rm. N-418, House of Representatives
Tel.: +63 2 931 5001 local 7377, 931 6067
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (firstname.lastname@example.org)