Monday, March 06, 2006

RETURNING to the mountains might be an option --Ka Satur

Solons facing rebellion raps mull return to mountains
First posted 04:26pm (Mla time) Mar 06, 2006
By Maila Ager

RETURNING to the mountains might be an option if they cannot get justice from the Arroyo government, one of five lawmakers facing rebellion said Monday.

"If we really could not get justice here in Congress, in our system of justice, then we are open to that option for our survival," Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo said at a press conference.

"This means that all their pretensions about the prevailing democratic processes, that we have a justice system that applies to all, if it will be proven that we are being discriminated against, then the government really wants us out of the system," Ocampo said in Filipino.

He said it was obvious that the government had the intention of stopping him and other party-list lawmakers from representing the "marginalized and under represented sectors" in Congress.

"This is the long and short story of all of these," he said. "But as long as we keep our conviction and the House of Representatives continues to support our rights then we will continue our fight."

Ocampo, along with his colleagues Bayan Muna Representatives Teodoro Casiño and Joel Virador, Liza Maza of Gabriela, and Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis, had been holed up at the House since Monday while waiting for the start of the preliminary investigation on their rebellion charge.

House Minority Floor Leader Francis Escudero shared Ocampo's view.

Escudero reminded the government that after the first people power revolt, those who went underground were encouraged to join the mainstream by participating in the democratic processes.

"But now, it seems that the strategy of this government is to force them out of the mainstream, out of the democratic processes, prevent them from participating in the election and go back to the underground," Escudero said.

"In a democracy, we may not agree with the position of one group or [a] particular group but we should allow them to express their position in accordance with the law like election and freewheeling debate," he added.

Ocampo said it only showed that the government was afraid because progressive and left-leaning groups were now gaining the support of the masses.

The five lawmakers had been complaining why they were being restricted in the House when no arrest warrants had been issued against them.

Ocampo said he would stand up in the plenary to clarify the extent of the "protective custody" being extended to them by the House.

Maza, for instance, had to first ask the permission of Speaker Jose de Venecia to allow her to attend a bicameral conference on the proposed juvenile justice system bill, which would be held in the Senate Monday night.

Aside from security, Maza also wanted an assurance that she would not be arrested while doing her work outside the House.

"May I also respectfully request that the arrangements be made with Philippine National Police Director General Arturo Lomibao that he should not effect a warrantless arrest," she said in her letter to the Speaker.

But Escudero said the lawmakers should not ask the permission of the House, saying they could not be arrested even if they left.

Escudero insisted that they were not under detention as they voluntarily placed themselves under the House 's protective custody.

"We are warning the DoJ [Department of Justice] and the PNP [Philippine National Police] that there should not be double standards in enforcing the law. The law does not recognize territory or place. The law is applied whether one is inside or outside Congress," Escudero said.

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