President Arroyo and her aides may choose to call it a Declaration of the State of Emergency, but the stench of Martial Law has pervaded the entire country.
For what else can one call a warrantless raid of The Daily Tribune at an ungodly hour of 12:45 a.m. Saturday, where armed and uniformed policemen swooped down on the newspaper offices and raided these offices, without a search warrant and even filching some papers without even a witness present, then ordering the padlocking of the offices and then having at least three policemen guarding the area, claiming they were doing so to "ensure that nothing gets lost."
At the same time, another police operation was ongoing, almost simultaneously, raiding the printing press with the policemen demanding to know from the night shift where our distribution centers were, and confiscating the last bundle which was to be picked up by a news dealer.
Later, on questioning the policemen why they were in the premises, the reply was that they were ordered to secure the area which is a "possible source of destabilization."
Then came the Philippine National Police chief Director General, Arturo Lomibao, telling the media that the Tribune has been taken over temporarily and that the administration is mulling the supervision of the editorial content of the paper since the Tribune may be conspiring with the opposition to bring down the regime of Gloria Arroyo.
It was also said the Tribune will be made to submit to the police authorities its final copy for approval. The regime is also reportedly thinking of taking over the operations of the newspaper and have the government publish it.
As this is being written, another phalanx of policemen has been deployed to the printing press offices, waiting for the Tribune to roll to press, with the clear intention to stop its printing.
And all this is claimed by the Palace to be constitutional and to quote the presidential legal counsel, Eduardo Nachura, the declaration of emergency rule by Mrs. Arroyo is precisely done to safeguard our freedoms and democracy.
And despite the fact of the raid and the probable arrest of the publisher, the Palace insists that this has not occurred and that it has no plans of controlling the paper.
They call a government takeover of a newspaper, a private enterprise, in which any government has no business poking its hand, critical or not.
The Constitution says no law, which means no law — whether by Congress or a dictatorial executive with her declarations — can be enacted abridging the freedom of the press. This also means that government is not vested with the right or authority to exercise prior restraint on the press.
The acts against the press hardly enhance the people's freedoms and democracy. It in fact ensures the suppression of these freedoms.
Gloria and her aides don't have any respect for the constitutional freedoms of a people and especially of the press that is critical of the Gloria Arroyo regime.
Her emergency declaration is done for only one purpose: Gloria's political survival. She can no longer take criticisms. She wants control of the press to ensure that the dirt that sticks to her and her government will be hidden.
She does not care about the rule of law, or the Constitution, or the freedoms of a people.
All she cares for is her political survival.
Charges will be manufactured, as evidence will be manufactured, to jail those who defy her.
The Tribune will continue defying her. We will not be cowed.
She can order the closure of the Tribune, but we will not close down the Tribune in fear of her.
We were not cowed during the martial law years. We will not be cowed today.
The Daily Tribune (c) 2000