TIME TO LEAVE BEHIND MARTIAL LAW ISSUE / GMA TO SPEAK ON MARTIAL LAW GAIN

MANILA, DECEMBER 15, 2009
(STAR) By Marvin Sy - As far as Malacañang is concerned, the imposition of martial law in Maguindanao has yielded substantial dividends and it has already been lifted, so it is time to move on.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Gary Olivar lamented that the critics of President Arroyo have refused to see the accomplishments derived from martial law and insist on “having a judicial decision about the entire matter.”

Olivar said that the President has decided to break her silence on the declaration of martial law and will elaborate on the dividends of her declaration before she leaves for Copenhagen, Denmark later this week.

“Never mind that martial law was already lifted and the judicial as well as legislative inquiry is already moot and academic,” Olivar said.

In spite of Mrs. Arroyo’s decision to lift martial law in Maguindanao last Saturday, incumbent and former legislators and other individuals who filed a petition before the Supreme Court questioning the legality of the President’s declaration, have asked the High Court to still render a decision on the matter.

Olivar acknowledged that the petitioners have every right to ask the Supreme Court for a ruling on the issue but questioned the wisdom behind this move.

He said that non-lawyers would have to ask what would happen to the gains brought about by the declaration of martial law over Maguindanao if ever the High Court rules against its legality.

“What will this mean for the arrests that were made, the charges filed, the evidence collected? Will these gains become what is called poisoned fruit, the objectionable outcomes of a poisoned process?” Olivar said.

“Will we then be required to release the suspects, throw away the evidence, even drop the charges?” he added.

Several members of the Ampatuan clan in Maguindanao, their armed supporters and some members of the Philippine National Police have been arrested and charged with multiple murder and rebellion.

The declaration of martial law facilitated the arrests of these people as the proclamation of the President included the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.

“The thing was done, the thing was undone, the gains that we sought were achieved, now let’s move on,” Olivar said.

Several members of Congress questioned the non-appearance of the President during the hearings conducted on Proclamation 1959 containing the imposition of martial law in Maguindanao.

They wanted Mrs. Arroyo to personally address Congress and explain the reasons for imposing martial law in the province.

The President left it to her spokespersons and other officials to explain to Congress the reasons behind Proclamation 1959.

Olivar said that Mrs. Arroyo will present to the people the dividends of her decision such as the rounding up of suspects in the killings of 57 people in Maguindanao last Nov. 23, the protection of public safety and the restoration of peace of mind to the residents of the province.

“These are dividends which the President plans to describe in greater detail before she leaves for Copenhagen this week. They are incontrovertible because nobody has seriously questioned their factuality, only the manner by which they were achieved,” Olivar said.

“Clearly, everybody who has been asking her to speak about martial law, now that she is ready and planning to do that, hopefully they will welcome this new development,” he added.

Mrs. Arroyo is leaving for Copenhagen either tomorrow or Thursday to attend the United Nations Summit on Climate Change.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde, for his part, appealed to politicians criticizing the President’s declaration of martial law to stop grandstanding.

“When we decided to declare martial law, we had a timetable of one week. I just had to laugh and this has been proven that these critics of the government are illogical and have no basis and they just attack and criticize and oppose for the sake of attacking, opposing or criticizing even without basis,” Remonde said.

PRESIDENTIAL NEWS REPORT from www.os.gov.ph

PGMA to speak on gains of martial law in Maguindanao

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is expected to speak on the substantial dividends of the martial law declaration in Maguindanao before she leaves for Copenhagen, Denmark this week.

In a press conference, Presidential Economic Spokesperson Professor Gary Olivar said the President may sum up the accomplishments of the martial law declaration in Maguindanao which restored peace and security in the province. The emergency measure, otherwise known as Proclamation 1959, was lifted over the weekend.

Olivar noted that the gains of the martial law declaration in Maguindanao can be measured in terms of the suspects identified and rounded up, witnesses summoned, charges filed, huge quantities of firearms uncovered, unexplained wealth disclosed, public safety protected, and the normal workings of government restored.

“Beyond quantification is the possibility of another cycle of revenge killings that may have been averted, and of course the palpable restoration of peace of mind to the beleaguered citizens of that province,” he said.

Olivar said the gains from the declaration of martial law are what President Arroyo plans to “describe in greater detail before she leaves for Copenhagen this week.”

He added that it is only appropriate for President Arroyo to have her final say on the issue.

The gains from the declaration of martial law, he added, are “incontrovertible” because nobody has seriously questioned their factuality only the manner by which they were achieved.

“On the ground, public support was widespread: the bishops supported it, the folks in Basilan even wanted it for themselves, and when martial law was finally lifted in Maguindanao, there was at least as much apprehension as relief among the public there, now that the military and police can no longer act swiftly as martial law allowed them to do,” he said.

“At least one question comes to my mind, as a non-lawyer like the majority of our people. If the High Court rules against the exercise of martial law that transpired, what will this do to the dividends that were achieved? What will this mean for the arrests that were made, the charges filed, the evidence collected? Will these gains become what is called “poisoned fruit,” the objectionable outcome of a poisoned process? Will we then be required to release the suspects, throw away the evidence, even drop the charges?” he said.

Olivar then turned the tables on government critics by asking them if they can suggest a contingency plan to ensure that justice will given to the victims of the gruesome massacre that left 57 people dead including women and journalists.

“If there is no such plan, on what grounds then do these inquisitionists justify putting at risk the rendering of justice of the victims of the massacre, their families, and the communities of Maguindanao?” he asked.

Olivar said that he is looking forward to get thoughtful and responsible answers from the critics to questions like the ones he raised.

“Otherwise, we shall end up being treated to just another episode in the long and endless trial by publicity of this President,” he added.

Palace welcomes Sison removal in terrorist list

Malacanang welcomed today the reported removal of Jose Ma. Sison from the terrorist blacklist by the Council of the European Union.

In a media briefing this afternoon in Malacanang, Presidential Spokesperson on Economic Affairs Gary Olivar said this is welcome news particularly if the development would lead to the resumption of the peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

Olivar said this new development is a positive factor on the resumption of the talks with the left hopefully before the end of the term of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

With peace a top priority of her administration, the president has called for everybody’s cooperation in a bid to forge a final peace negotiation with the left and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and sustain the gains in her peace and development efforts.

Olivar said the relaxation of restrictions on Sison could expedite the resumption of negotiations with the CPP-NPA-NDF.

“Hopefully this will lead to good things as far as the peace process with them. This is really what we are concerned about here in the Philippines, the resumption of the peace negotiations with the left,” Olivar said.

The resumption of peace talks between the government and the NDF was supposed to be held in Oslo, Norway last Aug. 28, but was put off after the NDF made another demand as a precondition.

“We are hopeful that Mr. Sison given this latest improvement in his circumstances abroad will now be in a better position to assist in facilitating the peace process between the CPP-NPA-NDF on one hand and the Philippine government on the other. That is our fervent hope,” Olivar said.

PGMA to play active role in Copenhagen conference

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will play an active role and will be highly visible in the climate change negotiations to be held this week in Copenhagen.

In a press conference, Presidential Spokesperson on Economic Affairs Professor Gary Olivar said President Arroyo will attend the 15th Conference of Parties (COP-15) in Copenhagen and there are two track negotiations that will take place during the event.

Olivar said the first track of negotiations will take place in the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) with Malta as chair. The goal is to enable a full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention through long-term cooperative action now and beyond 2012.

The second track negotiations Olivar said, will take place in the Ad Hoc working Group on Further Commitments under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) chaired by Antigua and Barbuda. It will discuss the future commitments of developed countries under the Kyoto Protocol.

Olivar noted that out of the five climate change threats that were identified such as drought, food, storm, rising sea level and agriculture, the Philippines is on top of the list for the storm threat following the disasters brought by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng in the country.

He said that based on the report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other scientific studies, various effects of climate change to the Philippines include the increase in sea levels in the country that could affect the living conditions in 64 of the nation’s 81 provinces.

“President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, in her speech in the Asian Development Bank (ADB) last June 18 termed it as follows: “As a nation made up of over 7,000 islands, rising seas due to global warming takes on a whole new meaning. Florida may lose some coastline, we lose a nation,” he added.

Olivar cited the Oxfam International report which stated that agricultural yields in the country are forecast to drop by about 10 percent for every one degree rise in temperature.

The other effects of climate change to the Philippines, Olivar added, include that in view of warmer sea surface temperatures, stronger typhoons and cyclones are being seen all over the world.

The country’s high diversity of species is also specifically vulnerable as even a slight change in temperature could cause the disappearance of many species. The country’s coral reefs, home to algae and hundreds of species of fish, are under the immediate threat from a warming of ocean temperature.

Olivar said that after the climate change meeting, President Arroyo is expected to meet with the approximately 8,000 Filipinos living and working in Denmark.

Press Secretary Cerge M. Remonde and Presidential Adviser on Global Warming and Climate Change Secretary Heherson Alvarez are expected to accompany the President in the conference.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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