AFP recommends lifting of state of emergency in Maguindanao

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/29 July) – The Armed Forces of the Philippines is now recommending the lifting of the state of emergency in Maguindanao, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Ricardo David told reporters at the Eastern Mindanao Command here today.

Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Ricardo David and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin answer questions from reporters at the Eastern Mindanao Command in Davao City on Thursday. Mindanews Photo by Keith BacongcoDavid, who came with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, said the AFP will recommend the lifting to the President and to the local government unit in Maguindanao. “The decision is on the President and the LGU, but we are ready to lift it,” he said in a press briefing after a four-hour command conference at Camp Apolinario in Panacan here.

But David stressed that there will be no pull out of troops in the area since security operations such as routine patrol and checkpoints will go on. The curfew, however, will no longer be enforced should the state of emergency be lifted.

The recommendation, he said, is based on their assessment given that governance in the province is now “normal.”

David said police-led operations would still continue in the province to arrest the suspects of the Ampatuan Massacre who are still at large. Over a hundred suspects have yet to be arrested.

Multiple murder charges have been filed against 197 persons, 28 of them from the Ampatuan clan, 62 policemen and four Army sergeants.

Earlier, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in Region 12 (Southwestern Mindanao) sought the public’s assistance in its continuing manhunt for the suspects.

On June 30, Maguindanao Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu said he will convene his Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) to discuss the security situation and recommend the lifting or retention of the state of emergency.

Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and the city of Cotabato have been under a state of emergency (SOE) for the last eight months following the November 23, 2009 massacre in Ampatuan, Maguindanao where at least 58 persons, 32 of them from media, were killed. The principal suspects were then Datu Unsay Mayor Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr., his father Datu Andal Sr. (then Maguindanao governor), brother Zaldy (then governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) and several other members of the Ampatuan clan.

On November 24, 2009, a day after the massacre, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Proclamation 1946 declaring the state of emergency 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 “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 a state of emergency. (Keith Bacongco / MindaNews)