Sunday, February 26, 2006

Over 100 arrests under Proclamation far

February 25, 2006

National (as of 8:46 PM)

Over 100 arrests under Proclamation far

More than 100 people were arrested since President Arroyo used a state of emergency to weed out opponents she blames for an alleged plot to oust her, learned Saturday.

On Friday more than 100 protesters, including University of the Philippines professor Randy David, were among the first to experience the consequence of Presidential Proclamation 1017 after they were arrested by police on EDSA.

More than 5,000 demonstrators led by David were stopped by police at the foot of the Santolan flyover in Quezon City. Also arrested was lawyer Argee Guevarra.

On Saturday police tried to round up opposition figures, including a left-wing congressmen and retired generals. They also targeted media outlets.

"As far as I'm concerned, if you are taken in for custody, you are being arrested," retired general Ramon Monta�o, former chief of the now-defunct Philippine Constabulary, told Reuters after he was "invited," while playing golf, to go to the Philippine National Police headquarters at Camp Crame for questioning.

"They approached me at the 18th hole," said Monta�o, who had previously called on Mrs. Arroyo to resign.

Monta�o, said Rex Piad, a former deputy director general of the PNP, was also asked to come to Camp Crame.

Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran was earlier detained for police questioning along with a bodyguard, his wife and two other companions. The five were arrested in Beltran's San Jose del Monte, Bulacan, home at around 8:30 a.m. Saturday. They were reportedly taken to the offices of the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) at Camp Crame.

PNP chief, Director General Arturo Lomibao, meanwhile, told reporters that former senator Gregorio Honasan, hailed as a hero in the uprising against Marcos, was No.1 on their list.

Before dawn, police raided a pro-opposition newspaper, The Daily Tribune, gathering documents, confiscating copies from the printing press and padlocking the office.

"They just swooped down, went inside," editor-in-chief Ni�ez Cacho-Olivares, said on radio. "This is like martial law."

Malaca�an later said it was not aware of the Tribune raid.

Police also went to the Abante tabloid but Elvira Altez, a member of its board, said the officers left after seeing crews from two television stations.

Marites Danguilan Vitug, editor-in-chief of Newsbreak Magazine, said the country stands the risk of losing the freedom of the press it regained 20 years ago..

"We view the raid on Tribune, an opposition newspaper, with alarm. It appears to signal the start of a crackdown on media organizations," Vitug said in a statement.

"We have always believed that repression is never the answer to a critical press. We remind the authorities that a free press is a cornerstone of a democracy. Without it, we cannot claim to be a democratic country," she added.

The President's allies defended the newspaper raids as a legitimate step against attempts to incite unrest.

Mrs. Arroyo, who survived a crisis last year over allegations of vote-rigging and corruption, invoked Proclamation 1017 declaring a state of national emergency on Friday, citing a "systematic conspiracy" against her by members of the opposition, communists and "military adventurists."

Manila's streets were calm after officials banned rallies celebrating 20 years of freedom from dictator Ferdinand Marcos on Saturday. The sight contrasted with the chaotic scenes of 1986 when one million people stood up to tanks on Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA), forcing Marcos to flee after a two-decade rule marked by martial law.

There have been a dozen coup attempts in the last two decades, but some analysts say Mrs. Arroyo's government amplifies threats to ward off plotters and shore up public support.

The indefinite state of emergency dented investor sentiment, with the peso falling one percent to 52.20 to the dollar on Friday.

Personal sacrifice

At a Mass to celebrate the "people power" movement, Manila's influential archbishop said the government should consider "personal sacrifice," a phrase used by former presidents Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos when they separately called on Mrs. Arroyo to resign last year.

"Military posturing of any kind and for any reason severely risks our position among the family of honorable nations," Gaudencio Rosales told the congregation, which included Mrs. Aquino, an icon of the EDSA demonstrations, and Ramos, who succeeded her.

Hours before the emergency declaration Friday, the military detained Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim, chief of the Army's elite 1st Scout Ranger Regiment, as the leader of troops allegedly planning to incite crowds at anti-Arroyo rallies. Police later broke up two protests of about 5,000 people each, one by using fire hoses and batons.

But there were no protests on Saturday and Mrs. Arroyo, surrounded by aides and security, visited one of Manila's malls, which were unusually quiet as shoppers avoided possible flashpoints.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, an ally of Mrs. Arroyo and former judge, said the President's order did not clearly specify the scope and limits of the emergency powers but still respected the rights of citizens, including the freedom of speech.

But Ramos said he was dismayed by Mrs. Arroyo's move. "Why is everybody panicking there in Malaca�an? It is so unfair to the country."

Rights group Amnesty International said it was concerned the state of emergency "may increase the risk of serious human rights violations and may undermine the rule of law in the Philippines."

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