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Nov 26th
Home Columns Amina Rasul The “Ampatuan Situation,” Martial Law and the Muslim Women’s Liberation
The “Ampatuan Situation,” Martial Law and the Muslim Women’s Liberation PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - Amina Rasul
Written by Amina Rasul   
Monday, 07 December 2009 11:08

P residential Spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo said: “I don’t think the President’s friendship with the Ampatuans will be severed. Just because they’re in this situation doesn’t mean we will turn our backs on them.”

Such an understatement. The “situation” has necessitated draconian measures: A state of emergency rule was imposed in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and
Cotabato City last week. We then worried that martial law was coming.

I am becoming cynical. Frankly, if 30 members of media had not been killed in the “situation” or event, I doubt if the outpouring of righteous anger and outrage would have been as overwhelming. After all, as many e-mails and text messages are saying, these are only Muslims anyway. Let them kill each other and be done with it.

Thus, while I grieve for my brave fallen comrades in media, I wonder: If they were not murdered during that massacre, would the “Ampatuan situation” be quickly forgotten? The international community has roundly criticized the way government has attended to the “situation.”

The scene of the crimes and the international forensics experts, it seems, were not well secured. The experts left Maguindanao, in fear for their lives.

I also worried about another scenario: Would the outrage over the murdered journalists be so overwhelming that it would create a demand for quick-and-draconian measures, an acceptable rationalization of martial law? The so-called creeping kind: First Maguindanao, then
and so on. However, we were reassured by the President’s people that martial law was both unnecessary and unwanted.

Last week, the President’s ally in the House of Representatives, Speaker Prospero Nograles, categorically stated that martial law was unnecessary. “I don’t think our senators and congressmen will favor this because it will certainly cause public uproar which can endanger their reelection bid,” said Speaker Nograles who hails from

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (
AFP), whom we assumed would support martial law, opposed it last week as a means to prevent the escalation of violence in the province and hasten the arrest of those responsible for the Ampatuan Massacre where 57 persons were brutally mowed down. In fact, AFP
public information head Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner said there was no need to declare martial law because the military and the police were in control of the situation.

And yet here we are. On Friday night, martial law was imposed in Maguindanao. Why? Because no one could enter the domain of the Ampatuans to serve warrants of arrest without a blood bath. Recall that the surrender of the principal suspect, Datu Andal, Jr., had to be negotiated by no less than Secretary Jesus Dureza, former Presidential Peace Adviser, and Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera.

People worry. Will martial law be extended? If martial law will cover the whole country, what will happen to the cases against the suspects in the Ampatuan “situation”? Will Datu Andal, Jr. be found guilty? If found guilty, will the death penalty be imposed?

Veteran columnist Neal Cruz asked Nasser Marohomsalic and me, during the last Kapihan sa Sulo, if the death penalty will be supported by Muslims. In Islam, the death penalty is allowed. In fact the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
uses public beheading as its penalty for crimes such as murder. My late father Abraham Rasul, former ambassador to the Kingdom, related to me that the Saudi government took good care of the health of prisoners who were condemned to be executed. The logic: The guilty must be of sound mind and body, fully aware of the enormity of his crime before he is executed.

Muslims of the South must remember that “there are no masters where there are no slaves.” What kind of a future do we have, we who are victims of present-day “situations” but who keep harping back to our glorious past when we were sovereign and powerful? What is to happen to us in Muslim Mindanao, we who are labeled as terrorist or “collateral damage” by those empowered to keep the peace, especially under a martial law scenario?

Several of us from various groups (civil society, academe, military, religious, politics, business) will come together on Monday for a roundtable discussion on the culture of politics and violence in ARMM, what we can do to take back our communities. IF there is anything we can do, given the present circumstances.


The “Ampatuan Situation” and the Muslim “Women’s Lib”

On Thursday, some of us from the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy met with Presidential Peace Adviser Anabelle Abaya. She agreed with our recommendation that women should now be empowered, whether to negotiate for peace or to work for development or to protect themselves. The “Ampatuan situation” has proven that we cannot trust the men to protect us, as the Holy Qur’an mandated a very-long time ago when women had no rights and were treated like chattel.

Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more [strength] than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore, the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in [the husband’s] absence what Allah would have them guard. [The Noble Qur’an, 4:34]

T he obedience of women clearly assumes that there was to be protection and support to be given them by men. Since the “Ampatuan Situation” has blown sky high the myth that Muslim men do not ever violate (even Muslim) women, we Muslim women must take charge of, and be responsible for, our lives.

“Nooros Salam” or “the light of peace,” a network of the aleemat (Muslim women religious scholars) and some women leaders of civil society, came out with a statement condemning what they called the “satanic” massacre. Perhaps now is the time for Muslim women to rise
and take charge as equal partners for the lives of their families and communities.

“Dismayed with the slow rate and the manner of the investigation being conducted by the police,” the women of Nooros Salam said “our heart cries in grief especially with the atrocious murder and rape of women, including an eight-month-, and a fourth-month-old, pregnant women!”

“We call on the authorities and fact-finding missions to conduct a fair-and-impartial investigation on the incident to find out the truth and give justice to the victims. We demand that the government must ensure bringing of justice to the victims and hold the perpetrators accountable to the full limit of the law.” # # #

Editor’s Note: Ms. Amina Rasul is the Lead Convenor of the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy. She is also a Trustee of the Magbassa Kita Foundation, Inc.

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Last Updated on Monday, 07 December 2009 11:11
Comments (1)
1 Monday, 07 December 2009 11:44
From the Philippine Consulate General of Los Angeles, California

PGMA proclaims martial law in Maguindanao; police arrest Ampatuans, supporters

Police authorities, backed by soldiers, detained yesterday Maguindanao Gov. Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr. as a principal suspect in the Nov. 23 massacre of at least 57 people, among them some 30 journalists.

The arrest of the Ampatuan patriarch, along with six other political leaders and government officials in Maguindanao, including Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan, came on the heels of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s imposition of martial law and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Maguindanao to restore the rule of law, and to prevent further breakdown of civilian government operations in the province.

The arrests came as crime investigators stepped up their probe into the carnage that drew worldwide outrage and condemnation.

In a media briefing early this morning, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the proclamation was necessary to ward off lawlessness and violence amidst investigations into the carnage.

On Nov. 24, the President placed Maguindanao, along with the province of Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato City, under a state of emergency. The three political entities are part of the ARMM.

In the same briefing, Press Secretary Remonde said the President took “the bold step in response to the cry for justice of the families of the victims.” He added that the judicial system in the province is no longer working, and that no judge would issue search or arrest warrants for fear of their safety.

The press secretary also noted that the peace and order condition in the province has so deteriorated to the extent that the local government has stopped functioning, thus, endangering public safety.

According to Ermita, the President issued Proclamation No. 1959 to thwart armed resistance to the arrest of people implicated in the gruesome crime.

Ermita also cited intelligence reports about the presence of armed groups, each with a force of 40 to 400 people. He said the armed men have established positions in critical areas with the apparent objective of resisting government troops out to enforce the law and maintain public order.

The Maguindanao governor, arrested in connection with the crime, is being held at the AFP’s Western Visayas Mindanao Command.

ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan, a son of the provincial governor, was taken by the police to Gen. Santos City, where he is now being interrogated for his possible role in the massacre.

The five other suspects now in detention were Maguindanao Vice Gov. Ahkmad Datu Ampatuan, Shariff Aguak Mayor Anwar Ampatuan, Shariff Aguak councilors Fai Sal Sulaik and Kahoner Ampatuan, and ARMM Agriculture Secretary Kaiser Usman.

Zaldy’s brother, Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. of Datu Unsay town, had voluntarily surrendered after initial investigation indicated he led the group that snatched and executed the 57 victims, among them the wife and two sisters of Buluan Vice Mayor Ishmael Mangudadatu.

Other suspects, according to Armed Forces chief Gen. Victor Ibrado, have already sent surrender feelers, apparently feeling the heat of relentless pursuit by government troops.

Under Proclamation No. 1959 dated Dec. 4, 2009, martial law is in force and the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is suspended in the whole of Maguindanao,

Explaining the proclamation, Ermita said that the President, under Sec. 18, Art. 7 of Republic Act 6986, has the powers to proclaim martial law and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus for a period not exceeding 60 days in the Philippines or any part thereof in case of rebellion or insurrection.

According to PNP chief Gen. Jesus Versoza, the police and the military were closely working together, adding that police investigators are in the process of retrieving vital pieces of evidence to support cases against the suspects.

He said authorities had recently unearthed a huge cache of high-powered firearms, including mortars, automatic weapons and anti tank weapons, thousands of rounds of ammunition, and explosives in a lot close to an Ampatuan residence.

Versoza said the arms cache, along with the armed groups massing in the province in an apparent bid to protect the suspects, means that “the elements of rebellion are present, hence the basis for the declaration of martial law.”

He also said the Ampatuans will be made to account for the firearms dug up a few meters from their residences.

The president, Ermita said, will make a report on Proclamation No. 1959 to Congress within 48 hours to seek legislative concurrence, as provided for by the Constitution. He added that Congress, in turn, will have to call a special session within 24 hours to determine the validity of the proclamation.

Martial law no overkill, Palace insists

There is no overkill in the declaration of martial law in the province of Maguinanao.

This was stressed by Press Secretary Remonde, saying the declaration of martial law in the province of Maguindanao will help government find the killers behind the Nov. 23 massacre of 57 people.

“Malinaw ang objective natin sa paggawa nito. This is response to the cry for justice of the families of the victims. Our objective is to arrest the suspects, protect the witnesses, dismantle private armies, ensure press freedom in the area, and of course, stop the rebellion,” Remonde said at a press briefing.

Remonde also said there is no need for the extension of the martial law in Maguindanao if all suspects involved in the gruesome murders were arrested and cases were filed against them.

“If all of these can be accomplished in less than 60 days, well and good. I’m sure our policemen and our soldiers are going to do their best and will make this as short and as brief as possible. No one wants to prolong this (crisis),” he said.

PNP Police Director for Operation Andres Caro II confirmed the arrests of Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan, Maguindanao Vice Gov. Ahkmad Datu Ampatuan, Shariff Aguak Mayor Anwar Ampatuan, Shariff Aguak Sangguniang Bayan members Faisal Sulaik and Kahoner Ampatuan, and ARMM Agriculture Secretary Kaiser Usman.

Remonde said the declaration of martial law in Maguindanao will not effect the country’s economy, tourism, and overall peace and order.

“We believe that this decisive action taken by government will improve the image of government,” Remonde said. ## #

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