Monday, February 27, 2006


First posted 04:36am (Mla time) Feb 27, 2006
By Conrado de Quiros

A GOVERNMENT HAS THE RIGHT TO PROTECT itself from a threat. But a government has no right to tyrannize the world to protect itself from that threat. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) is not doing the first, she is doing the second. Her response to an attempt to unseat her by force is to become a dictator.

Since she discovered a plot against her by a group of military mutineers, she has variously: proclaimed a state of emergency incorporating martial-law powers; arrested Randy David and 30 individuals for taking to the streets to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Edsa; practically took over the Tribune; arrested Crispin Beltran and nearly did so Satur Ocampo, and attempted to intimidate media. Calibrated? This is about as calibrated a response to the provocation as burning a house down to get rid of termites.

The strangest things have happened to this country but none stranger than that the very day dedicated to the fall of martial law should be dedicated to its resurrection 20 years later; the very day dedicated to reclaiming the freedoms guaranteed by democracy should be dedicated to losing it to a tyranny guaranteed by trapos and generals. Our editorial said it was a betrayal of Edsa. It is, and breathtakingly so.

The only continuing threat to the Republic is not an ongoing mutiny, it is an ongoing rule shrouded in illegitimacy. I was listening to CNN last Friday and their correspondent was saying the widespread perception here was that GMA had rigged the elections with the help of a Comelec commissioner. The host asked if emergency rule was not going to deepen the perception she could rule only by force. The correspondent said yes, it would. I agree one thousand percent. It would, and it does. Since last Friday, GMA has shown she can now rule only by force.

The only solution to rebellions and uprisings, real or imagined, is not for GMA to crush the freedoms of this country so that she may survive. The only solution to rebellions and uprisings, real or imagined, is for GMA to step down so that this country may breathe. Take it from Cory who defied her order for all rallies to cease on the day given to celebrating the reclamation of freedom and who asked her with customary politeness to make the ultimate sacrifice of resigning. Which sounded not unlike asking her husband to make the ultimate sacrifice of living within his means, but that is another story.

I myself have been asking for GMA to be ousted, and will continue to do so. But by constitutional means, not by unconstitutional ones: By People Power and not by a coup. If People Power is unconstitutional, then GMA has no right to exist, her right to govern would have been voided from the start. For even stranger than GMA restoring martial law on the day it was dismantled 20 years ago is GMA declaring illegal the very thing that brought her to power-against the one president in this country whose electoral mandate was ironclad. I remember again my arduously defending the legitimacy of Edsa II against my foreign journalist friends who thought it was a mere coup wrought by the elite against a populist leader. I continue to maintain it was genuine People Power for reasons I will not go into here. But if it was debatable then, it is not debatable now. An act of People Power against an arguably illegitimate president is unarguably legitimate.

Proclamation 1017-it is one of God's mysterious ways that that should sound like Marcos' Proclamation 1081 plunging the country into the darkness of martial law-is a martial law decree, not an emergency act. It posits among its "whereas-es" that media have been aiding an insidious conspiracy which has got to stop. The premise is wrong to begin with: it is not a conspiracy, it is an open and popular demand. Few people in this country bother to hide or disguise their disgust over the Arroyo administration and their fervent desire to see it go. Even the aborted coup-which the AFP chief of staff himself refuses to call so; he calls it a "threatened withdrawal of support"-was so openly advertised, with a view to convincing the higher-ups in the military chain of command to go along with it. Where in the world will you find a coup like that?

But more than that, that "whereas" is vicious, aimed not at stopping uprisings but dissent, not at stopping power-grabs but protest, not at stopping coups but criticism. Henceforth, all dissent, protest and criticism against GMA become an aid to a conspiracy. That is the justification for the crackdown that has already begun. The takeover of the Tribune is a brazen trampling of press freedom. That and the arrest of Beltran and the manhunt for Ocampo show the tactics of the nascent dictatorship, which is to begin with the "fringe" groups first and go for the mainstream. Tribune is associated with Erap, and Beltran and Ocampo have been painted red. First, the weak links, then the strong ones. They get away with this, they will go for the rest of media.

This is no time to be cowed, this is a time to fight back. As Bertolt Brecht said, you do not protest when the Nazis come to take your neighbors because they are Jews and communists, they will come to take you one day. I recall as well while writing "Dead Aim," a book on how Marcos declared martial law, something Blas Ople told me in an interview. Marcos, he said, never really thought of martial law as lasting as long as it did and becoming as vicious as it did. He declared it to buy time to explore various options. But he was surprised when it met with no resistance. So "tinuloy-tuloy na," he went at it full blast.

You do not stop dictatorship now, it will go full blast. They've pretty much stolen everything, must they steal your freedom too?

Protest. Defy. Fight back.

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