By Alexandra Francisco and Kat Elona
Martial law may have been lifted, but this is no time for Filipinos to let their guard down, according to officials of the College of Mass Communication (CMC).
“As watchdogs, we have to be ready to bark—and even bite, if needed,” said CMC student council chair Rupert Mangilit. He said the college should remain on the look-out until justice is truly served for the victims. To start off, the college has held forums, protests and indignation rallies together with other students and organizations in the campus to condemn the Maguindanao massacre and the proclamation of martial law (see sidebar below).
Fifteen out of 18 college organizations have already released solidarity statements to condemn the killings
Meanwhile, CMC dean Rolando Tolentino said the martial law was “a test run for a larger martial law scenario,” which could lead to a no-election scenario, a failure of elections or to a shift from presidential to parliamentary form of government.
Journalism professor and political commentator Luis Teodoro said Tuesday that the martial law in Maguindanao has made it “easier” for Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to declare martial law in other parts of the country.
However, he said that Arroyo would not attempt to declare a nationwide martial law “unless circumstances are favorable.” “The president will see if it (martial law) is possible despite what people say,” Teodoro added.
Both Tolentino and Teodoro noted in earlier interviews the infiltration of Ampatuan’s paramilitary forces and presence of thousands of loose firearms in Metro Manila.
“Is he preparing the people for a declaration (of martial law) in Metro Manila?” Teodoro said.
Noting how Arroyo based her decision only on intelligence reports about an impending rebellion by Ampatuan militia, Mangilit quoted Commission on Human Rights Chair Leila de Lima as saying, “It takes very little to induce the Executive branch to declare martial law.”
Martial law was implemented to curb a “brewing rebellion” allegedly involving former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. and 24 other suspects. It resulted to nearly 500 arrests and over 1,000 high-powered arms recovered in various raids as 4,000 troops swooped down on the province.
*With a report from Hon Sophia Balod