Friday, December 11, 2009

Rebellion in Maguindanao? Cabinet officials give mixed answers

By Purple S. Romero, | 12/12/2009 1:11 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Is there really a rebellion going on in Maguindanao that warranted the martial law declaration?
Two days into the joint session held by Congress, cabinet officials said yes—and no.
Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera said there was an ‘actual’ rebellion going on. But Executive Sec. Eduardo Ermita, in the same joint session, said there was no ‘actual’ rebellion. He said there have been some ‘firing of guns’ and that the groups are just re-grouping for a possible attack.
The existence of rebellion was Malacañang’s reason for issuing Proclamation No.1959, which placed Maguindanao under military rule.
However, critics doubt if there really is an armed revolt in the province, as the report submitted by Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to Congress only showed that ‘the Ampatuan group has consolidated a group of armed rebels.’
Most of the armed rebels, however, belong to the private army of the Ampatuans who are being alleged as the mastermind of the massacre of 57 people last November 23.
There are allegedly no testaments of attacks against the local authorities, which is required under Article 134 of Revised Penal Code to justify rebellion.
No courts: the trigger for martial law?
Devanadera and Ermita, however, both referred to the absence of local court justices who have the power to issue search warrants or warrants of arrest that the military could use in their local operations against the perpetrators of the Maguindanao massacre.
“Courts weren’t functioning, even today. Processes availed of came from other provinces. With respect to removal of allegiance [and others, there were reports from] the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines, military] and the PNP [Philippine National Police} that ‘armed men’ were not following orders from duly-constituted government but merely from Ampatuans,” she said during the interpellation of Sen. Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino.
However, when the third speaker – Cong. Edcel Lagman – came up at the podium, the replies of Executive Sec. Ermita did not entirely jibe with Devandera’s.
Lagman inquired about the basis of the proclamation. “Honorable Executive Secretary, was this collective decision recommending to President, based on an actual finding by those making recommendation that actual rebellion is occurring in Maguindanao?”
Ermita replied that actual uprising had not been a factor. “Not on whether actual fighting going on.”
He said that the actual determination of elements of rebellion came from “reports that armed groups indeed prevented authorities from exercising duties, reports of PNP, DILG and NBI that there was difficulty in obtaining warrants,”
Ermita stressed that “because no judges willing, hence necessary to declare martial law,” he replied.
Looming or actual rebellion?
On Wednesday, Day 1, Justice Secretary Devanadera, answering to the interpellation of Maguindanao Rep. Didagen Dilangalen, said that there is ‘actual’ rebellion.
She based the ‘actual rebellion’ tag on the existence of armed groups that have already taken hold of ‘strategic offensive positions’ in the province—and has caused the breakdown of the local courts.
Earlier, however, Devanadera said there was only a ‘looming rebellion,’—not an actual one.
‘Looming rebellion’ as basis for martial law declaration came up on Dec. 5. Not long after—3 days to be precise—the Devanadera was saying that there was already ‘actual rebellion.’
“I thought that there was only looming rebellion,” Devanadera said, but added that ‘further study’ of on-the-ground-reports coming from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police showed that there is already ‘actual rebellion.’
Ermita: no uprising
However, when the third speaker – Rep. Edcel Lagman – came up at the podium, the Executive Sec. Eduardo Ermita said the exact opposite.
Lagman inquired about the basis of the proclamation. “Honorable Executive Secretary, was this collective decision recommending to President, based on an actual finding by those making recommendation that actual rebellion is occurring in Maguindanao?”
Later, Ermita admitted that there is no ‘actual rebellion.’
“You may be correct there was no actual rebellion going on but all indications on the ground indicated inability of authorities to undertake their duties,” he told Lagman.
Where’s the fighting?
Since the state of emergency was proclaimed in Maguindanao on November 24, Ermita also said that there have also been no violent clashes between state agents and the armed groups.
Pressed by Sen. Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino if hostilities have erupted, Emita said that they gathered information that the some groups were ‘preparing.’
“No clashes, but they were just regrouping,” he said.
Meanwhile, PNP chief Jesus Versoza said that there had been one encounter between the Special Action Forces and the said rebels since martial law was proclaimed.
“There was an actual encounter between Special Action Force and rebel 3 days ago. No casualties,” he said as a response to the query of Sen. Francisco Pangilinan.
He added that there have been no other clashes, but there were ‘firing of guns,’ from the groups.
as of 12/12/2009 3:55 AM

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