12/05/2009, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Martial law for the province of Maguindanao

by Santosh Digal
An arsenal of weapons discovered near the villa of those responsible for the massacre of 57 people. Martial law has not be applied for 28 years. A commission to eliminate private armies launched. The appreciation of the Church for an end to "the culture of impunity."

Manila (AsiaNews) – As of this morning the province of Maguindanao is under martial law after the murder of 57 people, including 30 journalists, which occurred on 23 November. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo clarified that the procedure is necessary for the arrest of the Ampatuan clan, deemed responsible for the massacre. The 57 people were massacred in a power struggle between rival clans in run up to the provincial elections (See AsiaNews.it, 23/11/2009 Mindanao: dozens killed in election-related fighting between rival families).

The province of Maguindanao has been under a state of emergency since November 24 to stop the violence and lawlessness. The authorities arrested the powerful local chief, Andalo Ampatuan and another important member of the group. Andalo Ampatuan Jr., the son of the chief, gave himself up voluntarily to the police and is now in jail, accused of the murder of 25 people.

Yesterday, the army raided the Ampatuan villa, after the discovery of a huge arsenal of weapons, buried in the grounds.

It is the first time in 28 years that martial law has been applied in Mindanao. Teodoro Lorenzo A. Fernandez, a lawyer and professor at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, defends the decision: "Martial law in Maguindanao will help prevent rebellion, revenge and the cycle of violence by rogue elements. In this way the government troops will ensure order and peace, along with the safety of civilians. "

Arroyo has also launched a commission to dismantle private armies which every Filipino politician in the area surrounds themselves with.

The Commission on Human Rights will monitor the implementation of martial law to ensure there are no violations of human rights.

The Philippine Church has requested that justice is done in an "honest and quick," way so that peace and order are immediately secured and that "the culture of impunity" is brought to an end.

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