Friday, March 03, 2006

Virtual martial law

Virtual martial law

The marked change for the worse in the posture of three Gloria minions tasked by Malacañang to implement Proclamation 1017 -- Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales, Police Chief Arturo Lomibao and the Armed Forces Chief-in-Waiting General Hermogenes Esperon -- say it all. On public display are the cockiness and conceit of officials given extraordinary powers; the hatchet men’s propensity to dish out half truths, outright lies and not-so-veiled threats; and the unmistakable swagger of bullies.

Clearly these top officials of the Arroyo administration are acting as if the President had declared martial law and therefore government has a wide latitude to suppress rallies, arrest people without warrants, and take over media facilities. At the same time they keep up the pretense that Presidential Proclamation 1017 is only a declaration of a “state of national emergency” and is a calibrated response to what they paint as a serious threat to the survival of the state which they make equivalent to the Arroyo administration.

People are confused. The legal experts say that PP 1017 does not grant any additional powers to the President than what is already contained in the Constitution. They assure us that there can be no abridgement of the Bill of Rights, i.e. the fundamental freedoms of speech, peaceful assembly, right to free association, etc. That the courts of law and both houses of Congress can continue to operate. That there can be no clamp down on the mass media.

But the fact is the Arroyo regime is using PP 1017 and General Order No. 5 to cripple, if not incapacitate, its main political enemies. Obviously it is out to get the leadership of the legal Left, such as the congresspersons from the progressive party lists like Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Gabriela Women’s Party and the mass leaders of the multisectoral nationalist and democratic alliances and people’s organizations such as the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Gabriela, to name a few.

It does this by concocting outrageous and unfounded charges that these individuals (who are, by the way, legal personalities despite the fact that some of them may have earlier gone underground to fight the Marcos fascist dictatorship) conspired to commit rebellion and help military rebels like 1LT Lawrence San Juan to stage a coup d’etat.

The Arroyo government undertakes warrant less arrests as if these Left leaders were fugitives and not legislators or heads of open, legal organizations and offices who are accessible to the media, the public and to the civilian and military agencies of government.

They would deny basic due process by means of trumped up charges of rebellion, invoking highly questionable jurisprudence that rebellion is a “continuing” crime and ergo, suspected rebels can be arrested anytime, anywhere, anyhow.

Their obvious purpose is to drive legal activist organizations underground in the same way Marcos’ martial law did in 1972.

Indeed, there was a time when government did everything to entice revolutionaries, especially New People’s Army (NPA) commanders and Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) cadres, to bring their struggle into the legal arena. The propaganda line was that Philippine democracy had enough space for those espousing a communist ideology and a radical political program so long as this was not done through armed means. The Anti-subversion Law making membership in the CPP a crime was even repealed.

The reactionaries thought that when revolutionaries are in the legal arena, they could more easily be bought, co-opted or somehow rendered harmless. When this did not happen and the national democrats of the Left were able to use the parliamentary arena to gain strength and widen their influence, the propaganda line changed. Now the preposterous claim of the militarists and the die-hard anti-communists is that the CPP-NPA has successfully infiltrated the interstices of government and are leading the armed revolution vicariously from the comfortable environs of Congress.

The Arroyo regime has a slightly different tack when it comes to military officers, especially bemedaled ones. While they repeatedly broadcast the existence of a coup plot codenamed “OPLAN: Hackle” and in fact cite General Danny Lim, Col Ariel Querubin and PNP Supt. Marcelino Franco as ringleaders, curiously they have not been in a hurry to haul them to court or arrest and detain them. Merely a case of double standard or a pragmatic recognition that the rebellion in the military and police
ranks is far from over and there is a need to avoid any further aggravation of the already explosive situation?

Those who experienced martial law, especially the first days, weeks and months, are convinced that Marcos’ ML was essentially a palace coup, the seizure of absolute power by Marcos and his co-conspirators through the suppression of all actual and potential sources of dissent and resistance. It constituted a monopoly of power; it was systematically carried out; it caught majority of the people flatfooted. And while coercion was the main form, deception including psychological warfare, was not too far behind.

GMA’s version of virtual martial law may pale in comparison but not as a result of the regime’s lack of desire and intent, but a question of capability.

Firstly, there are the constitutional constraints that were put in place to check presidential exercise of martial law powers in the wake of the experience of the Marcos dictatorship. Secondly, there is the fact that the Arroyo regime is extremely
isolated politically and pushed to fighting for its survival by using a divided military and police forces against its opponents and the people.

Thirdly, the economy is in such a precarious state that it will not withstand further indeterminate political turmoil and uncertainty that Mrs. Arroyo’s PP 1017 has unleashed.

Fourthly, there is a strong mass movement and a broad array of forces who will not back down and will provide the leadership to fight GMA's tyranny.

Bishops and other church people decry PP 1017. Legislators, members of the academe, professionals and various molders of public opinion denounce it. Mass media practitioners, progressives and militants defy it.

In the end, the Filipino people will defeat PP 1017 and Mrs. Arroyo’s regime will inevitably fall.#

By Carol Pagaduan-Araullo

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