In an earlier blog I posed the question, “After Martial Law, What?” The Arroyo government answered yesterday, December 13—State of Emergency.
What do I think about this? First of all I do not know exactly what a”State of Emergency” really means. It does mean to me at least that the military will continue to hold sway over Maguindanao. Does it also still cover Sultan Kudarat? Having the good of the people in Maguindanao in mind, continued stay by the military would be good. I would also assume that people in Maguindanao and its adjacent provinces would be in favor of the government decision. They are, after all, familiar with the social, political, and cultural situation of Maguindanao.
Martial Law has accomplished several objectives—the most important being the arrest and detention of the principal suspects in the massacre. It also began the important process of searching for and confiscating weapons and defanging the armed power of one dominant clan. It restored a sense of security to ordinary people outside Shariff Aguak, accustomed to seeing a huge retinue of heavily armed escorts and bodyguards speeding through towns and villages to and from Cotabato City.
Assuming that the administration of justice regarding the massacre would now be in the hands of a fearless, independent and credible judicial group, I would like to see the State of Emergency continue the work that Martial Law began. This uncompleted relates fundamentally to the dysfunctions in Maguindanao. Among the agenda still to be done are: continuing military pursuit of suspected perpetrators of the massacre; completing the confiscation of weapons; dismantling all private armies in Maguindanao; establishing credible executive, judicial, legislative , and security systems, beholden to no one but only to the common good; establishing transparency and accountability in government; reforming the electoral process, including the establishment of credible and honest electoral bodies; ensuring that we would have new names and new faces in the next elections that sincerely have the good of he people in mind; protecting candidates, teachers and ballots. And in all these, the military must respect fundamental human rights.
Those are the objectives I believe the State of Emergency should strive to accomplish. I also believe that the Commission on Human Rights, rather than being adversarial, should play the role of a monitoring and evaluative body with legal teeth to bring cases of human rights violations to court. The vigilance of civil society and the moral guidance of religious leaders from all religious traditions are indispensable.
Between now and elections in ARMM and Maguindanao, the social and political groundwork should be laid down for a more free, a more participatory, honest peaceful, and credible elections that would attract candidates who are capable and may not necessarily carry a political name. There are many out there who would like to contribute towards the forming of a new Maguindanao but may be intimidated by the present post-Martial Law situation. It is my hope that the uncompleted agenda to establish the proper ambience for substantive change may be effectively addressed by a State of Emergency.
+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato
December 13, 2009