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Power, not justice, is what Arroyo seeks with martial law

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Contact: Rhonda Ramiro
Secretary-General, BAYAN-USA

BAYAN USA Urges Phil. Congress to Revoke Proclamation 1959, Demands Obama Withdraw Support

The US Chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or BAYAN USA, an alliance of 14 Filipino organizations across the United States is urging Filipinos in the United States and around the world to heighten their vigilance and resolve against the Arroyo government’s recent declaration of a State of Martial Law in the Southern Philippine province of Maguindanao. Following Arroyo’s signing of Presidential Proclamation 1959 last Friday, the Philippine Congress is set to resume on Monday, will review Arroyo’s action, and will vote on it.

“This is not about seeking justice for the victims of the Maguindanao massacre. This is about taking advantage of what is perhaps the most insolent election-related act of violence in recent Philippine history to justify abuse of executive powers,” states BAYAN USA Chair Berna Ellorin. “Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo does nothing but dishonor the 64+ massacred last November 23rd in Maguindanao by riding on the tragedy to serve her own narrow interest to cling to power, especially when her Presidential term must end next year.”

No Justice for Maguindanao Massacre Victims Under Arroyo

The alliance chided the Arroyo government’s delayed handling of the Maguindanao massacre as intentional and supported growing calls for a third party to conduct an impartial, thorough investigation of the crime scene and ensure swift arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators. But the lack of timely effort on the Arroyo government’s part to go after the obvious suspects– the Ampatuan family, a powerful political dynasty that has ruled Maguindanao for over a decade– clearly posed roadblocks to justice.

Nearly two weeks after the massacre, and with only one suspect in custody who voluntarily surrendered, Arroyo signed Proclamation 1959, placing Maguindanao province under a State of Martial Law, under the auspices of arresting the other members of the Ampatuan family and calling them in for questioning.

“The Arroyos and Ampatuans are close political allies, therefore the Arroyo government is in no rightful position to present itself as capable of enacting swift justice, especially in light of key witnesses coming forward confirming their long-time political patronage included the sales of arms, arms that were used to kill last week,” Ellorin added.

“Declaring martial law does not negate the Arroyo government’s policy of impunity for perpetrators of human rights abuses,” Ellorin continued. “It is a means to mask the Arroyo government’s own culpability in the massacre itself and consolidate power through military rule under a military well-documented for sowing the country’s human rights crisis with the assistance of US military aid.”

Obama Standing on the Wrong Side of History?

Since it’s founding in 2005, BAYAN USA has been actively campaigning for the withdrawal of US military aid to the Philippines, which account for the training, advising, and arming of the Philippine military under Arroyo. A US Senate hearing in 2007 raised concerns that funding from the US government was directly linked to rampant pattern of state-sponsored killings and disappearances of critics of the Arroyo government.

Referring to his now-famous inaugural words criticizing world leaders who “cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent,” the alliance also welcomed the Obama administration last January in Washington DC with calls to withdraw all forms of support to the Arroyo government for its proven track record in corruption, fraud, and gross human rights violations.

“If Obama stands with Arroyo’s proclamation of Martial Law, he is no different than Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan whose support for the former dictator Ferdinand Marcos fostered and enabled a dark period in Philippine history when warrantless arrests, torture, and assassinations were routine for the ruling military but terrorizing for the Filipino people,” Ellorin claimed. “The international community, especially US tax payers, play a role in pressuring both the US and Philippine governments to ensure the lifting of martial law in Maguindanao, an end to policy of impunity for human rights abusers in the Philippines, and that justice for the victims of the Maguindanao massacre is truly obtained void of the Arroyo government’s handling.”