Saturday, February 25, 2006

Edsa betrayed --Inquirer

Edsa betrayed
First posted 00:50am (Mla time) Feb 25, 2006

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WE CONDEMN, in the strongest terms, the latest plot by misguided members of the military. In the same breath, and in the very same terms, we also condemn President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's declaration of a state of emergency. This is a needless, reckless response to what the Army chief has called a "pending coup." It reinforces public perception that the Arroyo administration is prepared to sacrifice democratic principles on the altar of political survival.

The risk the coup threat poses to the State is real; the detention of Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim, until yesterday the commanding general of the Army's elite Scout Rangers, and the arrest of Police Director Marcelino Franco, until yesterday the chief of the elite Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police, are troubling indicators of both the depth and reach of restiveness in the armed services.

But it is a risk that is well within the power of the government to contain. We can only conclude that the President's declaration of a state of national emergency (through Proclamation 1017, a number with chilling Marcosian overtones) is a grave overreaction.

MalacaƱang does not have to take our word for it. The President and her men can ask the members of the financial community, whose judgment they apparently value the most. Joseph Tan, a regional economist at Standard Chartered Bank, spoke for many when he said: "What the alleged coup failed to do, in terms of weakening the peso, the President managed to do with the declaration of a state of emergency."

In other words, the proclamation, which is based (among other premises) on the assumption that the threat against the State includes activities "adversely affecting the economy," is actually what drove the peso down yesterday.

We find another premise of the proclamation deeply disturbing: that "the claims of these elements (referring to some members of the political opposition in alliance with Leftist 'authoritarians' and 'military adventurists') have been recklessly magnified by certain segments of the national media."

This is an unusual clause, and could very well serve as a pretext for cracking down on news organizations that publish unflattering stories about the administration. The un-cool, un-collected Michael Defensor, the President's chief of staff, confirmed our worst suspicions when he spoke excitedly about what the proclamation has empowered the administration to do. Among these, he noted the government's power to take over public utilities, "even media facilities," should the need arise.

In the hands of an administration that has in fact all but blamed the media for airing opinions or positions contrary to those of MalacaƱang, it is not difficult to imagine the state of national emergency being used to gag journalists -- and thus restrain the public's right to know.

We condemn both the coup plot and the presidential proclamation as acts of violence against the body politic. The use of organized violence, no matter how targeted, can never be an acceptable option. At the same time, the declaration merely gives legal form to brute political reality: The true mandate of this administration, engulfed in a continuing crisis of legitimacy, lies in the armed services.

We condemn both the plot and the proclamation as assaults on democracy. A violent strike is fatally undemocratic; a public that thinks the President stole the elections cannot turn around and embrace the violence that negates the very idea of the vote. At the same time, the declaration pays lip service to democratic ideals, but in truth creates an opportunity to curtail the very liberties at the heart of our democracy.

Not least, we condemn both the plot and the proclamation as betrayals of the highest ideals of the Edsa People Power revolution. The events that shook the nation and stunned the world exactly 20 years ago today started when a military faction broke away from the Ferdinand Marcos regime. But it was not the military that launched the Edsa People Power revolution; this lesson has been lost, however, on those adventurists in the military who have lost patience with the democratic experiment.

At the same time, the declaration is deeply, maddeningly anti-Edsa People Power. Yesterday, when it was still only a few hours old, it was used to justify the violent dispersal of a crowd that had gathered to mark the Edsa People Power anniversary, and to arrest some of the demonstrators. Here, indisputably, is proof that the Arroyo administration has turned its back on Edsa People Power.

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