By Carol Pagaduan-Araullo
Up close and personal
In all things there is a silver lining. One offshoot of Presidential Proclamation 1017 that is a constant source of comfort are the spontaneous expressions of concern from people, even strangers, who somehow know of my being a social and political activist and are worried about my safety and liberty.
They invariably wish me well, under the circumstances of the current government crack down on its critics and dissenters in general. Oftentimes they offer assistance of one kind or another.
No one has ever told me to stop criticizing or dissenting; several have actually said we should hurry up and kick out the illegal tenant of Malacanang so people can have some normalcy restored in their lives.
In due time, we will acknowledge and thank all the courageous Filipinos who have given succor and sanctuary to progressives and activists, in these critical times, but for obvious reasons will have to remain anonymous for now.
How are progressives and activists faring in the post PP 1017 climate? Has the threat of arbitrary arrest, indefinite detention and trumped-up charges brought the fear of Justice Secretary Gonzales, Police Director Lomibao and GMA's favorite General Esperon into our hearts? Have we gone into hiding? Have our offices closed down?
Those of us who have experienced life under the Marcos fascist dictatorship know that the Arroyo regime's PP 1017 (and subsequent remakes to follow after its supposed lifting) is tantamount to martial law.
The fate of illegally detained Rep. Crispin Beltran and five other progressive party list legislators, who have so far avoided warrant-less arrest by asserting their right to due process and are being given refuge by the House of Representatives, underscores the point.
Speaker Jose de Venecia is itching to turn over the 'Batasan 5' to the police, not unlike throwing hapless prey to a pack of wolves, to be rid of them and the media coverage their plight has afforded them.
In so doing he makes clear that Leftists, no matter how lofty the government positions they have earned through the ballot, are still fair game to a regime under siege, willing to break the so-called 'rule of law' to eliminate its opponents and preserve its tenuous hold on power.
Human rights lawyers defending those unjustly accused of conspiring to mount a coup d'etat or open rebellion against the Arroyo government are being subjected to heavy surveillance and other forms of harassment by the police and military.
The mass media are threatened with law suits and cancellation of their license to operate should they persist in covering alleged terrorists, rebels and all who the authorities label as "destabilizers" including leaders and members of legal and legitimate political parties and people's organizations.
These groups' offices are under constant surveillance by menacing-looking men, not in uniform, but obviously under orders from police and/or military authorities to step up their harassment of personnel and visitors. Activist groups are keenly aware of the constant danger of police raiding their offices, conducting searches without benefit of court-issued search warrants and even planting incriminating evidence.
To top it all, Mrs. Arroyo's hatchet men armed with the precedent of PP 1017 and General Order 5 as a means of bludgeoning her known and perceived enemies have drawn up various lists of people to be charged with conspiracy to commit rebellion or some such non-bailable offenses. The Arroyo government is deliberately including unnamed John and Jane Does in those lists so that leaders and members of activist and even opposition groups can be added as the need arises. Or as the Arroyo regime's paranoia increases.
Thus, one never knows when your name has shown up in some government list of "left" and "right rebels" and assorted "destabilizers." The sword of Damocles thus is clearly hanging over everyone's heads; we may continue our commitment and advocacies on pain of being future Ka Bels, Liza Mazas, Satur Ocampos and so on.
Meanwhile the extra judicial killings have not stopped in the provinces. Police and military-directed death squads operate with impunity because Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo continues to turn a blind eye to reports of rampant human rights violations perpetrated by her men in the AFP and PNP. Moreover, police raids and/or flagrant break-ins of offices of human rights and people's organizations are alarmingly increasing in number.
Despite all these we continue to do our thing--that is, fight for truth, freedom and justice.
While we do so under the constant threat of "pre-emption" and retaliation by a politically isolated and fascist regime, we are made steadfast and fearless by the knowledge that right will eventually triumph over might.
We are confident that our people will rise up and overcome the new tyranny and blasphemy masquerading as the "best leadership" that God, no less, has ordained upon us.#