Pinoy activists in US join clamor to probe martial law imposition

Article posted December 16, 2009 – 09:32 PM
Calls to investigate the declaration of martial law in Maguindanao have spread among overseas Filipinos even days after the edict was lifted.

Human rights activists in the US have joined the growing clamor to hold President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo accountable for placing the southern Philippine province under military rule in response to the gruesome November 23 massacre, which left at least 57 people, including 30 journalists, dead.

At least eight major Filipino-American groups recently staged a protest action in California in front of a US Federal building in downtown San Francisco, shouting slogans and carrying posters that said, “Never again to Martial Law.”

Members and supporters of the League of Filipino Students, Babae-San Francisco, Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, Anakbayan-Eastbay, GABRIELA-USA, and the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, attended the two-hour rally.

Ivy Climacosa of BABAE-USA said their group is denouncing Arroyo’s declaration of martial law and called on the US Congress to cut its financial aid, which she said “bankrolls the Arroyo regime’s atrocities.”

GABRIELA-USA chair Raquel Redondiez added, “We’re in the middle of an economic crisis in the US. Instead of funding the Philippine Death Squads, our hard-earned tax dollars should be used to provide much needed jobs and social services to communities in the US.”

Anakbayan’s Katie Joaquin also said that the declaration of martial law was Arroyo’s ploy to stay in power and cover up her administration’s role in the massacre in Maguindanao.

The primary suspects in the massacre include leading members of the Ampatuan clan who also hold key government positions in the province and are known to be close allies of Arroyo.

BAYAN USA Secretary General Rhonda Ramiro believes that the imposition of martial rule was meant to effectively block any investigation and prosecution of the massacre, as it placed the Philippine military and police in charge.

“(The Philippine military and police) are the very same people who have been accused of collaborating with the perpetrators and with committing thousands of killings, abductions, torture and rape of innocent people,” Ramiro said.

Redondiez said the US-based groups would continue to pressure the US Congress and the Obama administration to end political and military support to Arroyo and what they consider as her “cronies.”

Arroyo placed Maguindanao under martial rule on December 4 by virtue of Presidential Proclamation (PP) 1959. She subsequently lifted the order after one week, at the height of a joint Congressional session and seven petitions pending in the Supreme Court to declare PP 1959 unconstitutional.

The groups, which formed the US-based coalition Never Again to Martial Law (NAML), have called the lifting of PP 1959 a victory even as they vowed no letup on calling for international pressure to ensure full restoration of civilian rule in Maguindanao.

Dr. Dante Simbulan, an NAML convenor and former political prisoner, said the lifting of martial law was a way for Arroyo to save face. “International awareness about Arroyo’s arming of her warlord allies and the illegality of her declaration of martial law is growing. She may have lifted Martial Law to avoid embarrassment and questions at the upcoming Copenhagen conference and other international fora.”

Arnedo Valera, an international human rights lawyer, added: “We believe GMA may have declared martial law to ‘test the tolerance’ of the Filipino people and the international community for it. For all we know, we could see it re-emerge in another form in the future.”

Professor Ligaya McGovern of Indiana University also said people around the world must remember that with or without martial law, there exists a climate of repression and impunity in the Philippines, which allows for gruesome acts like the Maguindanao massacre to occur.

“We will continue to do what is needed to stop human rights violations and to achieve justice for the victims of the massacre and all other victims of human rights in the Philippines,” McGovern said. – JMA, JV, GMANews.TV