Martial law in Maguindanao lifted

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — President Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday lifted martial law in Maguindanao, where an election-linked massacre left 57 people dead, senior aides announced.

“Proclamation 1959 is lifted effective 9 p.m. today,” Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita told a news conference.

Mrs. Arroyo met her top security advisers early yesterday and the meeting concluded that the government had achieved its main objectives in the troubled province, which was placed under martial rule on December 4.

The security forces said the regime, which empowered them to arrest suspects without court orders, has allowed them to take into custody many of the suspects in the November 23 massacre. The detained suspects were all relatives or supporters of Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan, Sr.

His son, Datu Unsay Andal Ampatuan, Jr. has been charged with multiple counts of murder for allegedly ordering the kidnapping and subsequent shooting of 57 people including journalists and relatives of the clan’s local rival Esmael Mangudadatu.

Mangudadatu has alleged the killings were carried out to prevent him from running against the younger Ampatuan for governor of Maguindanao next year.

The elder Ampatuan was among 24 people separately charged with rebellion later.

“In view of of these accomplishments… the cabinet group recommended the lifting of Proclamation 1959 and the President has approved the recommendation of the cabinet security group,” Ermita said.