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Philippines president lifts martial law declaration

[JURIST] Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo [official website; BBC profile] on Saturday recalled Proclamation 1959 [text, PDF], lifting the declaration of martial law [press release] and reinstating habeas corpus in the province of Maguindanao. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita announced that martial law had been lifted, saying that the objectives of Proclamation 1959 had been met. The objectives were quelling the rebellion, arresting suspects from last month's massacre, securing the safety of witnesses, filing appropriate charges against the suspects, disarming illegal armed groups, restoring law and order and press freedom, and restoring civilian government. The proclamation declaring a state of emergency will remain in effect [Manila Bulletin report], and the deployment of troops to Maguindanao will continue.

Earlier this week, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] urged [JURIST report] Philippine authorities to establish a timetable to end martial law. The National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL) [advocacy website] and other groups petitioned the Philippines Supreme Court [official website] to reject the declaration of martial law. The proclamation was announced [JURIST report] last Saturday, and is a result of instability in the province following a politically motivated attack that left 57 dead last month. Government authorities last week arrested several suspects [BBC report] in connection with the attack, including Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., and subsequently discovered an "arsenal of weapons" buried nearby. Military officials believed that rebels loyal to the Ampatuan family intended to launch a rebellion. The family is suspected of ordering the November 23 attack [AFP report] against political rival Esmael Mangudadatu, who was traveling with family, aides, and journalists to file as a candidate in an upcoming gubernatorial election.

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