I am personally endorsing this letter from the Batasan 5, which refers to the five partylist Members of Congress being persecuted by the Arroyo administration. They remain in protective custody of Congress against threats of warrantless arrests.
For the record, the Batasan 5 have not been charged in any court. Three complaints are still at the stage of preliminary investigation. Meanwhile, Ka Bel (Anakpawis Rep. and KMU Chairman Emeritus Crispin Beltran) remains arbitrarily detained even without a judicial order committing him to PNP custody and inspite of a court-order mandating his release.
While we may not have common ideologies, I am sure we share principles that we all hold dear: due process, civil liberties, human rights. Indeed, nobody should be arrested or detained without due process. Nobody should be persecuted based solely on one's beliefs.
Please read this letter from the Batasan 5. I wish you could contribute in your own way to keep our cherished rights and liberties.
Bayan Muna Staff
15 March 2006
AN APPEAL TO OUR FRIENDS
As you read this letter, we, five members of the House of Representatives – Satur Ocampo, Teodoro Casiño, Joel Virador, Liza Maza and Rafael Mariano – remain holed up in our offices under the threat of warrantless arrest if we so much as take one step outside the gates of Congress.
Following President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's issuance of Proclamation 1017 on 24 February 2006 putting the entire country under a state of national emergency, police and military forces have cracked down on legitimate dissent in violation of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution. The police raided and stationed its personnel in the offices and printing facilities of The Daily Tribune, a newspaper critical of President Arroyo, which is a clear attack on press freedom. Police officers also warned media about covering "opposition" activities and threatened journalists with charges of inciting to sedition should they violate government 'standards' or guidelines. President Arroyo also announced the prohibition of any protest rally or public assembly with the unilateral and blanket cancellation of all rally permits, in violation of the constitutional right to assembly.
The government then attacked us, progressive congresspersons and our parties, on the pretext that we connived with communist rebels and mutinous soldiers and tried to overthrow the Arroyo government on February 24.
The morning after the issuance of Proclamation 1017, on February 25, Rep. Crispin Beltran of the Partido Anakpawis was arrested and detained by police despite the absence of any charge or warrant of arrest. Notwithstanding a release order issued by a court, he remains detained in Camp Crame despite his failing health (he is 73 years old and just recently suffered a mild stroke).
On that same morning, policemen armed with high-powered rifles blocked the vehicle of Rep. Satur Ocampo minutes after a press conference of the House minority at the SUlo Hotel. Luckily, he was able to evade this illegal arrest, as did Representatives Casiño, Maza and Mariano who also attended the press conference but exited through a back door. The police forces that swooped down on us did not have any arrest warrant and could not even inform our lawyer what we were being charged with. On February 27, Rep. Joel Virador was seized, handcuffed, and manhandled by the police in Davao City while he was purchasing a plane ticket for his flight back to Manila to attend Congress sessions.
It was only on February 27 when the PNP-CIDG filed a complaint of rebellion against the six of us, along with six other known personalities of the legal, progressive people's movement, namely, Nathaniel Santiago, Vic Ladlad, Randal Echaniz, Rey Claro Casambre, Tita Lubi and Rafael Baylosis.
On February 28, the entire House of Representatives, recognizing that probable cause for our indictment has yet to be established, unanimously approved House Resolution 1169 (now Resolution 133) reaffirming our right to due process, particularly our right to a preliminary investigation, and giving us "protective custody" from arrest absent any judicially issued arrest warrant. Unfortunately, the Arroyo government, specifically the police, has disregarded this very basic right and insists that once we get out of our offices, we will be arrested event without a warrant in clear violation of our rights under the Constitution and various laws.
It must be stressed, however, that in availing of the "protective custody" of the House of Representatives, we have not asked for special treatment by virtue of our being members of Congress. We are simply asserting our constitutionally guaranteed right to due process of law, which is every citizen's right. We never said that we are above the law; all we are affirming is that the government must properly observe the law.
In fact, it is the government that is not duly observing the law. For instance, before the preliminary investigation on the complaint of rebellion against us to determine if there exists a probable cause to formally charge us in court began on March 13, President Arroyo had already prejudged our case. In an exclusive interview with Philippine Star, published on March 12, she declared that the five of us "have committed a crime" and "are committing a continuing crime".
She added that we could be arrested even without a warrant of arrest, and that it was "courtesy to the House of Representatives" that the justice secretary agreed to seek a warrant (through preliminary investigation).
Following Mrs. Arroyo's cue, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales declared to media on March 13, "We will just declare probable cause, then it's up to the court to decide (on the charges)."
Friends, this is martial law making a comeback in our country even without formal declaration. We, and many other critics of President Arroyo, including sections of media, are being subjected to political persecution. We in the progressive party-list and people's organizations are both persecuted and physically attacked because our political beliefs run counter to those held by President Arroyo. Our leading participation in the protest movement and the impeachment process in raising the question of the legitimacy of President Arroyo's electoral victory, our relentless fight against corruption and government abuse, and our advocacy for civil liberties and human rights have made us "enemies of the state", as far as the Arroyo government is concerned.
We appeal to you, our friends, to help us assert our right against political persecution, fight for civil liberties and human rights, and assert the legitimacy of our political parties and our mandate as elected representatives of the marginalized and underrepresented sectors. Help us fight against the return of martial law in the Philippines.
We urge you to please do the following:
1. Raise this issue in your respective communities and offices and condemn, take action or at least express concern on the ongoing crackdown on progressive legislators, mass leaders, parties and people's organizations.
2. Call on the Arroyo government to respect our right to due process and against illegal arrest, and to stop the assassinations and other violations against progressive organizations of the workers, peasants, women, youth, lawyers, media and others.
3. Write to the following to express your opposition to the unjust curtailment of our civil liberties. Please make a specific appeal to FREE Rep. Crispin Beltran, especially on humanitarian grounds:
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
PNP Director General Arturo Lumibao
Camp Crame, Quezon City
Sec. Raul Gonzales
Department of Justice
P. Faura St., Manila
Sec. Avelino Cruz
Department of National Defense
Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City
We will appreciate it if you can inform us of the action you have taken on this appeal. You may reply at this email address or contact as at: firstname.lastname@example.org, Telefax no. (632) 951-1027.
Should you visit the House of Representatives, we would be grateful to meet with you at the Plenary Hall or in our respective offices.
Thank you very much.
In solidarity for freedom and justice,
REP. SATUR C. OCAMPO
REP. TEODORO CASIÑO
REP. JOEL VIRADOR
REP. RAFAEL MARIANO
REP. LIZA MAZA
Gabriela Women's Party