[JURIST] Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo [official website; BBC profile] issued Proclamation 1959 [text, PDF] on Friday, imposing martial law and suspending habeas corpus in the province of Maguindanao, the first presidential imposition of martial law in the country since Ferdinand Marcos’ fall in 1986. The move, announced [press release] Saturday, is a result of instability in the province following a politically motivated attack that left 57 dead last month. The martial law proclamation stated that
[T]he condition of peace and order in the province of Maguindanao has deteriorated to the extent that the local judicial system and other government mechanisms in the province are not functioning, thus endangering public safety.
The country’s constitution [text] allows the declaration of martial law and suspension of habeas corpus for a period of 60 days in the event of a rebellion if necessary to preserve public safety. The latter measure applies only to those connected to the uprising, and individuals must be charged within three days of their arrest. Arroyo is required to submit the order for congressional authorization within 48 hours, after which a simple majority is required for approval.
Government authorities on Friday 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 travelling with family, aides and journalists to file as a candidate in an upcoming gubernatorial election.