Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Cabinet split on ending state of emergency


Cabinet split on ending state of emergency
First posted 01:09am (Mla time) Feb 28, 2006
By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.

CABINET officials are split on the lifting of Proclamation No. 1017, with the security cluster remaining cool to a proposal by economic managers to rescind as soon as possible the state of national emergency that President Macapagal-Arroyo declared on Friday because of an alleged coup plot.

The announcement by Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye in a statement yesterday that “the state of emergency will remain until such time that we are sure that the threats are contained” indicated that Ms Arroyo was heeding the advice of military and defense officials.

“I believe the public will understand that the lifting of PP 1017 will be slightly delayed,” Bunye said on radio, referring to the emergency declaration.

Issuing her emergency declaration on Friday, Ms Arroyo spoke of a “tactical alliance” between right-wing and communist forces to oust her and “create an unconstitutional regime.”

Two officers from elite security units in the country’s influential military were detained. On Saturday, police arrested an opposition congressman and a retired general, and raided a newspaper office. More persons were arrested yesterday.

Trade Secretary Peter Favila said the economic managers had requested a one-on-one briefing with the Cabinet security cluster last night to enlighten the group on the extent of the threat against the administration.

“We told them (security cluster) to give us the real situation because we want to lift it since the markets have normalized,” Favila said at a briefing in Malacañang.

“We’re asking, ‘What else is there?’ But based on (Defense) Secretary (Avelino) Nonong Cruz’s briefing, we might have to wait for a couple more hours or days and that they’ll just give the signal when everything is clear,” the trade secretary said.


As early as Saturday, Favila said the economic managers had been telling the President of the need to lift PP 1017 considering that the markets had remained sober.

“She was just nodding her head. She was just listening,” he said.

Were it not for the Fort Bonifacio standoff with the Marines on Sunday, Favila said the President would have lifted the proclamation “between now (Monday) and Wednesday.”

“Until noontime Sunday, we were discussing the lifting. Then the Marines started calling for media coverage. We had to drop the issue entirely,” the trade secretary said.

But with the standoff resolved before midnight Sunday and the peso and stock markets behaving normally yesterday, Favila and the economic managers revived their push for the lifting of the proclamation.

Within normal range

Favila noted that the peso’s and stock market’s decline on Friday were well within the normal range of trading activity and was way different from the reaction in the 1989 attempted coup d’état.

He said the bloody coup attempt in 1989 cost the country a 2.2 percentage loss in economic growth, P120 billion in business activity and P12 billion in tax revenues.

“The markets gave a good, encouraging sign that everything was back to normal,” Favila said.

He said, however, that the economic team had “no debate” with the security cluster on the law and order situation because the latter might have more information than it had disclosed to the public.

He said a majority of businessmen reacted positively to the declaration of a state of emergency although there were some who complained that it was rushed and the public had been kept in the dark about its justification.

“If there was no concrete action taken, the market could have taken a tailspin and that would have been worse,” Favila said.


But one of the country’s biggest business groups blasted Ms Arroyo’s declaration of a state of national emergency as contrary to the national interest and an “overreaction to events.”

The Makati Business Club (MBC) said PP 1017 was issued amid Malacañang’s insistence that the situation was under control.

“Just as we urge the government to immediately revoke PP 1017, we also urge the Armed Forces to continue upholding the Constitution,” the MBC said in a statement. “Instead of preserving democracy, the proclamation threatens people’s rights and freedoms reminiscent of martial law.”

“The warrantless arrests, warnings and threats against media appear to be early indicators of a crackdown against voices of dissent,” it said.

“The core problem lies in the lack of transparency and accountability of our political leaders (and) our sad state of affairs is the cumulative effect of controversy and cover-up, which include the 2004 elections, ‘Hello Garci’ tapes and the still unreleased Mayuga Report on military involvement in the elections,” the group said.

The MBC, along with the Financial Executives of the Philippines and various civil society groups, called for Ms Arroyo’s resignation in July last year when 10 Cabinet secretaries and high-ranking Malacañang officials demanded the same.

Guillermo Luz, the group’s executive director, maintained that the MBC had not changed its position and believed that the social unrest was the result of the unresolved controversies. With a report from Ronnel W. Domingo

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