(STAR) By PABLO ROMERO - President Arroyo will study tomorrow the possible lifting of her
declaration of the state of emergency in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and General Santos City last month as the peace and order situation in these areas seem to be improving with the arrest of key suspects in the massacre of 57 people and the reported rebellion by the Ampatuan clan.

Mrs. Arroyo declared a state of emergency a day after the Nov. 23 Maguindanao massacre and imposed martial law in the province on Dec. 4 after authorities said the Ampatuans, who are suspects in the killings, were about to stage a rebellion. The declaration of martial law was lifted a week later.

Cabinet Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the President will preside over a Cabinet meeting in Baguio where the Maguindanao situation will be discussed.

“We will have a situationer on Maguindanao where we can discuss the possibility of whether we maintain the state of emergency or if there is already enough reason to lift the state of emergency in Maguindanao, especially if it is a recommendation coming from the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) and the defense department,” Bello said.

He said the Cabinet cluster on national security will tackle various security issues including latest developments in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in connection with the massacre.

Among the items to be taken up are situation in the ARMM, including the “normalization of local government functions, status of legal cases (on rebellion and multiple murder), and the overall peace and order and security situation,” he said.

Preliminary investigation on rebellion raps vs Ampatuans, 600 others starts today By Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) Updated December 28, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice (DOJ) will start today the preliminary investigation on the rebellion charges filed against more than 600 people led by members of the influential Ampatuan clan in Maguindanao that prompted President Arroyo to declare martial law in the province earlier this month.

Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera said a total of 638, including seven Ampatuans, have been summoned to attend the hearing at the DOJ multipurpose hall at 9 a.m.

Based on the complaint filed by the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) last Dec. 14, the respondents allegedly took part in the rebellion from Nov. 28 to succeeding days by joining the rallies and armed troops gathered to prevent the government from carrying out its duties in connection with the investigation on the Nov. 23 massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao.

Police have tagged Mayor Yacob Ampatuan of Rajah Buayan town in Maguindanao, Mayor Banarin Ampatuan of Mamasapano town, Datu Ulo Ampatuan, Datu Ipi Ampatuan and Datu Kanor Ampatuan as alleged leaders of the rebellion.

Police said five other local officials also led the uprising in support of the Ampatuans, which included Sultansa town Vice Mayor Sukarno Badal, Barira town Mayor Alexander Tumawis, Datu Undin Mayor Ombra Sinsuat, Parang Mayor Abu Talib, and provincial administrator Nurie Unas.

The CIDG said there were 17 persons who served as “sub-leaders,” including Dainga and Manny Ampatuan, while 611 others were followers.

All 638 are facing rebellion charges under Article 134 in relation to Article 135 of the Revised Penal Code.

Senior State Prosecutor Leo Dacera III said the five Ampatuans tagged as leaders in the rebellion and 19 of their followers are now detained in various detention cells.

The prosecutors said the respondents could send their lawyers first for today’s hearing and the suspects would only be required to appear personally before the panel of prosecutors led by State Prosecutor Lamberto Fabros upon submission of their counter–affidavit.

“I think they will waive appearance,” he said.

Dacera said the 614 other respondents would still be subjected to preliminary investigation even outside custody of government.

The CIDG alleged that on Nov. 28, the Ampatuan elders led by clan patriarch former Maguindanao Gov. Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr. and Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) gathered their political allies and supporters at their palace residence in Shariff Aguak and declared that in response to their impending arrest by the government, they would resist and fight back.

Police added that three witnesses “who were present at this gathering confirmed the leader’s declarations and orders to their allies and supporters such as hundreds of armed civilian volunteers against the national government and repel military and police forces.”

Police submitted testimonies of at least seven witnesses, including four police officials in the province. Photographs of rallies of supporters of Ampatuans, numerous recovered firearms and ammunitions and members of the Ampatuan clan and allies showing off sophisticated high-powered firearms were also submitted as evidence.

The DOJ has already filed a rebellion case against the

clan’s patriarch Andal Sr., and 23 others, including ARMM Gov. Zaldy and his brothers acting Maguindanao governor Sajid Islam and Shariff Aguak Mayor Anwar Ampatuan before the Cotabato Regional Trial Court last Dec. 9.

The DOJ said the 24 respondents have allegedly “willfully, unlawfully and feloniously help, support, promote, maintain, cause, direct and command their followers to rise publicly and take arms against the Republic of the Philippines, or otherwise participate in such armed public uprising, for the purpose of removing allegiance to the government or its laws or depriving the Chief Executive any of her powers or prerogatives.”

The DOJ said the specific acts of rebellion included “massing up armed men and organizing assemblies” and “preventing public prosecutors form being available to conduct inquest and preliminary investigations.”

“There were massive formations of numerous armed civilians supported by armored vehicles and under the command of the Ampatuans who have formed a private army to resist government troops; that the local provincial government of Maguindanao could not function with their employees going on mass leave and their respective offices were closed and not functioning,” the DOJ added.

The alleged rebellion in Maguindanao was used by the Palace as main ground for issuing Proclamation 1959 that put most areas in the province under martial law.

The DOJ reiterated that the rebellion case would be treated separately from the massacre case, which will also have its second hearing for preliminary investigation today.

Maximum security would still be implemented at the DOJ compound, although Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., the alleged mastermind now in custody of the National Bureau of Investigation, is no longer expected to attend the hearing after his lawyer Sigfrid Fortun waived his right to submit defense before the investigating panel of fiscals. – With Edith Regalado

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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