So martial law in Maguindanao has been lifted. It was just a very clever ruse all along. It hate to say it, but the entire exercise was masterfully done. Practically the entire country has been outfoxed yet again by GMA and her gang. It would now appear that the main objective of the week-long declaration of military rule in the province was to neutralize the still-formidable Ampatuan forces accused of carrying out mass killings to keep the clan in power. And it looks to have worked. It has been reported that at least a total of 529 people involved in an alleged rebellion (the primary ground for declaring martial law), including key Ampatuan family members, leaders and supporters, have been placed under military or police custody. All with little or no bloodshed.
Arroyo knew that the proclamation of martial law had no factual basis and would have eventually been exposed as a sham, if not by Congress, then by the Supreme Court. Hence, the immediate lifting which now renders all the challenges hurled at it moot and academic.
Of course, much of the hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth were entirely justified. Nobody really knows what Arroyo has up her sleeve.
It may be a way of setting the Amputuans free, some legal experts say, since by involving them in a non-existent rebellion they might wiggle out of the murder charges for which the evidence is overwhelming. Rebellion would exclude other crimes, which are then merely absorbed in the rebellion charge. It would be easier for the Ampatauns to be cleared of rebellion than of murder, according to this view.
Another scenario has it that GMA is merely setting the stage for staying in power. She is trying to see what she can get away with as a prelude to frustrating next year’s national elections. A nationwide declaration of martial law is entirely possible should Arroyo find ways of expanding the state of emergency beyond Maguindanao and environs.
According to Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, an even more sinister plot is afoot, involving the Ampatuans, the CIA, a military clique and a new RAM (the coup-oriented though now moribund Reform the Armed Forces Movement). The objective is supposedly to orchestrate a “bolder” martial law and to seize power.
The events of the past days certainly provide rich fodder for conspiracy theorists. The hostage-taking of 75 people in Agusan Del Sur, kidnappings and beheadings further down south in Basilan and the continuing instability in Central Mindanao may be part of a “script” meant to have the breakdown of peace and order spill over to other parts of the country.
The lifting of martial law would calm somewhat the rising tide of disquiet among the citizenry but will not end the speculation regarding Gloria’s true motives.
I myself am of two minds about the whole thing. The horror and outrage caused by the Maguindanao mass murders is such that it I find myself agreeing with Congressman Teddy Boy Locsin that the bodies “cry out for the most extreme exercise of the police power, which is nothing less than martial law.” In his impassioned defense of the “least benign” of constitutional measures to preserve social order, he said (I believe rightfully): “Nowhere and at no other time has martial law been better justified or based more sufficiently on incontrovertible facts. We are seeing Maguindanao and what we see, unless we are morally blind, cries out for martial law–at least for now” due to “a state of affairs that has deteriorated beyond lawless violence, beyond a state of emergency ”.
But I am queasy about allowing Arroyo, even for a short while, to exercise powers which can unquestionably be subject to grave abuse. Especially since she has shown no qualms about bending our laws and corrupting our institutions to suit her own ends.
So while my gut reaction is to cheer on the crushing of the Ampatuans and their ilk by whatever means, however extreme, my instincts also tell me to be stay vigilant regarding GMA’s moves and intentions. You
get the sense know that she’s not doing all of these merely to ensure that justice is done.