Friday, March 03, 2006

Lawyers groups doubt crackdown will stop

Lawyers groups doubt crackdown will stop
First posted 07:48pm (Mla time) Mar 03, 2006
By Tetch Torres

CIVIL liberty groups fought vigorously for the lifting of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s emergency proclamation. And when she did, two lawyers’ groups expressed doubts that the crackdown on her critics would end.

Arroyo on Friday lifted the emergency declaration designed to thwart an alleged coup plot but which critics said was threatening freedom of expression and deterring investment.

Council for Defense of Liberties spokesman Neri Colmenares said he believed Malacañang lifted Proclamation 1017, which placed the country under a state of national emergency, to prevent people from going to the streets.

He said he has doubts that Arroyo’s giving up of her emergency powers would stop the continuing crackdown on government critics.

For Arlene Bag-ao, council chairperson of the Alternative Law Group, the lifting of the Proclamation 1017 would not necessarily stop Malacañang from instituting "clever manipulations" to prevent the people from airing their grievances.

"Philippine democracy is still on a trial ironically by a leader who should have been the number one protector of civil liberties," Bag-ao said.

Arroyo ordered the state of emergency on February 24, citing a "tactical alliance" between right-wing and communist forces to overthrow the government and "create an unconstitutional regime."

Soon after, police raided the officer of The Daily Tribune, a small newspaper critical of the government, and placed troops at its door.

At the same time, authorities sacked three senior military and police officers whose units were implicated, and banned street protests in pre-emptive actions aimed at heading off the alleged plot.

Under the decree, the government filed charges of rebellion and attempting a coup d'etat against 16 opposition figures, including six leftist legislators. With Agence France-Presse

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