BULUAN, Maguindanao (MindaNews/02 July) — Maguindanao Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu will convene his Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) next week to discuss the security situation and recommend the lifting or retention of a state of emergency over the province.
Mangudadatu told a press conference after his inaugural on Jne 30 that he will convene the PPOC so they can decide on the matter.
Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and the city of Cotabato have been under a state of emergency (SOE) for seven months following the November 23, 2009 massacre in Ampatuan, Maguindanao where at least 58 persons were killed, 32 of them from the media. The principal suspects were then Datu Unsay mayor, Datu Andal Ampatuan, Jr., his father, Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr., and several other members of the Ampatuan clan.
On November 24, 2009, a day after the massacre, President Arroyo issued Proclamation 1946 declaring a state of emergency over Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces and the city of Cotabato to “prevent and suppress the occurrence of similar other incidents of lawless violence.”
In Maguindanao, President Arroyo issued Proclamation 1959 on December 4, declaring a state of martial law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Maguindanao “except for certain areas” within the government-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace process.
When martial law was lifted on December 12, the area remained under SOE.
Arroyo left office to become a representative of a district in Pampanga without lifting the SOE.
A full week before ending her nine-year reign, President Arroyo through Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza said they would leave to President Benigno Simeon Aquino III the decision on whether to lift the SOE in the two provinces and Cotabato City.
Mendoza said the decision not to lift the SOE was in line with the recommendation of the Departments of Defense ; and the Department of Interior & Local Government.
“There is still violence, threats to lives and property (in these areas). Let the next administration study the possibility of lifting the state of emergency in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and Cotobato City,” Mendoza told reporters in Malacanang.
Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command and administrator of martial law, told MindaNews in mid-June that he would rather that the newly-elected officials convene the PPOC to discuss the situation and make their recommendations on the lifting of the SOE.
Mangudadatu did not specify the date of the PPOC meeting next week but stressed it would be “next week.”
In his inaugural address, he ordered the police to “enforce the law” by arresting those in the list of 197 suspects who are reportedly hiding in the bailiwicks of the Ampatuan clan. He said each arrest carries with it a reward of P250,000 based on the budget allocated by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.
Of 197 suspects in the massacre, only eight have been arrested, six of them members of the Ampatuan clan.
The rest are at large. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)