SHARIFF AGUAR, Philippines Dec 5, (AFP) -The Philippines said Saturday it had imposed martial law in a southern province to quell a rebellion by the region's ruling clan accused of being behind the massacre of 57 people.
|A mother and her child ride with their belongings on an improvised vehicle past a military check point as they evacuate their homes in Maguindanao province, after the government declared martial law in the town of Ampatuan on December 5, 2009. The Philippines said December 5 it had imposed martial law in a southern province to quell a rebellion by the region's ruling clan accused of being behind the massacre of 57 people. AFP PHOTO/TED ALJIBE
President Gloria Arroyo placed Maguindanao province under military control late on Friday in an effort to contain heavily armed militias belonging to the provincial governor and other members of his Muslim clan, authorities said.
“There's a rebellion in the area,” Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera told a nationally televised news conference as she outlined the reasons for the imposition of martial law.
“It was practically an overthrow of government.”Martial law was also implemented to make it easier to bring members of the powerful Ampatuan clan into custody, presidential spokesman Cerge Remonde told reporters.
“President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has taken this bold step in answer to the cry for justice of the (relatives of the) victims of the now infamous Maguindanao massacre,” Remonde said.
It was the first time martial law had been declared anywhere in the Philippines since the reign of dictator Ferdinand Marcos. He had the whole of the country under martial law from 1972 to 1981.
Within hours of martial law being declared, special forces detained the province's governor and patriarch of the clan, Andal Ampatuan Snr, who since 2001 had ruled Maguindanao with the backing of a private army.
More than 4,000 soldiers were deployed across Maguindanao, and an AFP photographer on the outskirts Shariff Aguak, the provincial capital, witnessed army checkpoints checking all vehicles travelling on the roads.
One of the clan chief's sons, Zaldy Ampatuan, the governor of an autonomous Muslim area in the southern Philippines, was also taken into custody on Saturday morning, along with two other relatives, according to the military.