Saturday, December 12, 2009

Arroyo lifts martial rule in Maguindanao province, but state of emergency stays

Anti-Arroyo protesters during a recent rally in Davao City in Mindanao. (Photo by Karlos Manlupig)

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / December 12, 2009) – Philippine President Gloria Arroyo has lifted Saturday martial law in Maguindanao, but the state of emergency stays in the province where security forces are pursuing more than 2,000 armed followers of a powerful political clan linked to the massacre of 57 people last month.

“We will continue with our operations to track down more than 2,000 gunmen who are followers of the Ampatuan clan. Although the President ordered the lifting of the martial law in Maguindanao, the whole province is still in the state of emergency,” said Colonel Jonathan Ponce, a regional army spokesman.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the lifting of the martial rule will take effect at 9 p.m. Saturday.

Arroyo placed the province under martial rule after security forces unearthed hundreds of light artillery and heavy infantry weapons in Shariff Aguak town said to belong to the Ampatuan clan.

At least 57 people were killed, including 30 journalists on November 23 by more than a hundred gunmen allegedly led by Datu Unsay town mayor Andal Ampatuan Jnr whose father and namesake is the governor of Maguindanao. Among those brutally murdered were the wife and relatives and supporters of rival politician Esmael Mangudadatu, the vice mayor of Buluan town who is a candidate for governor in Maguindanao in next year’s polls.

The military said the armed followers of the Ampatuan clan are still a serious threat in the peace and order in Maguindanao. “Unless these people surrender peacefully and lay down their arms, they still pose a great threat to the security of the public in Maguindanao,” Ponce said.

Authorities have charged Andal Jnr and several clan members and followers of multiple counts of murder charges, while his father and brothers, including the governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Zaldy Ampatuan, were also charged with rebellion. The Ampatuans denied all the accusations against. (Mindanao Examiner)

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