State of emergency baffles CHR chairPhilippine Daily Inquirer
COTABATO CITY—Unaware that the state of emergency (SOE) still holds on for almost three years in the strife-torn Maguindanao, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has vowed to look into its unusually prolonged existence, saying the presidential declaration ought to be lifted by now as shown by the restoration of normalcy in the province.
“Oh my gosh, you still have the state of emergency here for that long period of time?” CHR Chair Loretta Ann Rosales said in a radio interview here.
Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had placed Maguindanao and some adjacent portions of North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat in an SOE in December 2009, immediately after the Nov. 23 Maguindanao carnage of 58 predominantly media practitioners.
Palace officials, through the recommendation of government forces securing these provinces, upheld the status quo of the SOE to give authorities wider elbow room to run after some 100 remaining suspects, mostly government militia purportedly working as ‘private army’ of the powerful Ampatuan political clan.
“Of course, it should be lifted by now to allow the democratic process to take place,” Rosales said.
Major General Rey Ardo, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (ID), said the SOE had helped the military in its campaign against loose firearms and criminal activities by Moro insurgents.
Ardo claimed that soldiers and police elements were able to easily seize over a hundred assorted firearms, ammunition and explosives in highway checkpoints under the prevailing SOE atmosphere.
The SOE, according to the 6th ID chief, also facilitated the capture of several rebel sanctuaries of Ameril Umra Kato, founding leader of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM), a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
“In due time, we will have Kato arrested and prosecuted for the public to see how the state of emergency is working for the people’s welfare,” said Ardo, who blamed the BIFM for the monthlong Ramadan hostilities that displaced tens of thousands of Maguindanao inhabitants.
Rosales, however, assured the public that she would have to investigate the justification of a prolonged SOE and see to it that the people’s rights are not violated. “There must be due process,” she stressed. Charlie C. Señase, Inquirer Mindanao