Even Senator Miriam Santiago wouldn't defend PP 1959
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-12-10

Along with Senator Juan Ponce-Enrile, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago was one of those who aroused a big crowd along that historic EDSA and Ortigas intersection to what eventually led to the May 1, 2001 assault on Malacañang Palace where Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) had already taken residence.

But ever since her son AR died on November 20, 2003, Senator Santiago had metamorphosed from a GMA severe critic to a staunch administration ally and defender. From then on, Senator Santiago had been defending GMA on just about every damning issue that threatened the distrusted regime.

But on the issue of the imposition of martial law in Maguindanao through GMA’s Presidential Proclamation (PP) 1959, even Senator Santiago could not see herself defending it. Last Monday, on national television, Senator Santiago went on her now familiar rant and lambasted the Palace advisers who were allegedly responsible for having misled GMA to make this monumental blunder.

But because this is Senator Santiago — whose mental processes are quite difficult to follow — we have to see this recent rant against the Maguindanao imposition of martial law from several perspectives.

Was Senator Santiago hinting that this Maguindanao martial law was another operation of Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronnie Puno? We all know by now how Senator Santiago gets excited whenever Ronnie Puno’s name is mentioned. By no coincidence, Ronnie Puno had been given a prominent role in handling the Maguin-danao incident from the day it made headlines.

As a lawyer who takes pride in her reputed mastery of Constitutional Law, is Senator Santiago incensed over the unnecessary and baseless martial law proclamation? Despite her passion to defend GMA, perhaps Senator Santiago could not see herself defend this gross violation of the Constitution.

Senator Santiago is also up for re-election. Perhaps, she had realized that this issue will be roundly unpopular with the way two former presidents (Fidel V. Ramos and Joseph Estrada) and other legal luminaries have been exposing its flaws. Thus, she fears that this could trigger a voters’ backlash against those legislators who will not reject PP 1959. If this is the case, then we should wish that the Congressmen were similarly enlightened.

In attacking the imposition of martial law in Maguindanao, is Senator Santiago actually defending GMA by pinning the blame on bad advisers whom the lady Senator suggested should also be buried with a backhoe?

Several theories have emerged from credible sources on why PP 1959 was imposed which, if verified and proved, could put GMA in an even worse predicament.

Senator Rodolfo Biazon thought that PP 1959 was intended to protect and absolve the Ampatuans, prime suspects behind the Maguindanao massacre. It is no secret that GMA is beholden to the Ampatuans and they could sing very embarrassing and incriminating songs against her relating to the 2004 and 2007 election cheating operations.

Senator Biazon thinks that the rebellion charge is weak precisely because there was no actual rebellion. Finding hoards of high powered firearms, which many people know the Ampatuans really possess, cannot justify a charge of rebellion. Even if these were already being used to prevent arrest, the fitting charge would be resisting arrest, not rebellion.

But rebellion being a political offense, the accused could be extended amnesty. Rebellion carries a lesser penalty compared to the heinous massacre where so many witnesses have already surfaced — making it easier to prove in court beyond a reasonable doubt.

By shifting to a rebellion charge, the murder charges are tucked under a political crime that can be dismissed because it is weak or subsequently absolved by an amnesty. Considering the many “public enemies” GMA had already pardoned — it should not surprise us if she extends amnesty to the Ampatuans.

Two reliable Chair Wrecker sources, one of them a senior military officer assigned in Mindanao, shared relevant information that somewhat supports Senator Biazon’s theory. Independent of each other, these two sources reported to yours truly that PP 1959 was intended to protect GMA and the Ampatuans.

The Ampatuans were in grave danger from reprisals from the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), known enemies of the Ampatuan clan and supporters of the aggrieved rivals, the Mangudadatus. One source even said that the reported “defection” of Ampatuan civilian armed volunteers to the MILF were not actual defections but personal pleadings to be forgiven and spared from the reprisal.

To prevent the Ampatuans from spilling the beans on the 2004 and 2007 cheating operations, their safety had to be ensured by GMA. The military show of force in Maguindanao was the only way to discourage the MILF from pursuing their vendetta on the Ampatuans because fighting the government forces would setback the MILF’s bigger agenda which is being pursued in the revived peace talks.

Regardless of what motivated Senator Santiago to attack PP 1959, her adversarial position underscored the point that the prescription was no different from detonating a nuclear bomb just to kill a pesky fly.

It was baseless, violated the Constitution and was totally unnecessary in the light of the fact that the situation in Maguindanao was already under control with the earlier imposition of a state of emergency and the subsequent arrest of Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr., alleged mastermind of the massacre.

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