Lawyers to defy protest ban
First posted 04:17pm (Mla time) Feb 28, 2006
By Agence France-Presse
LAWYERS said Tuesday they plan to defy a ban on rallies ordered by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo under an emergency declaration she issued to thwart an alleged coup attempt.
Joel Cadiz, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the country's main lawyers' group, called on judges, lawyers, students and other activists to protest on Friday, exactly one week after Arroyo's declaration.
"This is a declaration of martial law," Cadiz said. "We have no freedom of assembly and press."
The president invoked her constitutional powers to confront what she called a "tactical alliance" between communist guerrillas and right-wing "military adventurists."
In a widening crackdown, authorities have detained or charged a handful of officers in the military and police along with leftist legislators and others. Police have raided an opposition newspaper, and broadcasters were asked to restrain themselves so they would not inadvertently provide "aid or support" to those calling for the ousting of the president.
Arroyo's declaration came during the 20th anniversary of the "People Power" revolution that toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who had ruled under martial law for nine years.
Cadiz said Arroyo's tactics were excessive and an attempt to hold on to power despite widespread opposition to her rule.
Seventeen lawyers' organizations have asked the Supreme Court to rule that Arroyo's declaration was unconstitutional. At a brief hearing on Tuesday, the Court ordered the lawyers and their government opponents to present oral arguments next week.
The lawyers said they were hoping the Supreme Court would swiftly issue a temporary restraining order against Arroyo's state of emergency.
Cadiz played down the alleged coup plot, saying "if there are people who are seeking to fight this totally corrupt government, that is not a conspiracy."
Even if there were a plot, "that does not justify trampling of the freedom of the press, freedom of assembly," he said.
Other lawyers have said the Arroyo proclamation was not equivalent to martial law and essentially allowed the president to mobilize the military to crush a rebellion. The normal judicial system remained in place.