May 7, 2007
Bayan Muna urges Supreme Court to order AFP out of Metro Manila
Progressive partylist groups led by Bayan Muna went to the Supreme Court today in a major legal effort to immediately pull out military troops in Metro Manila.
In an Urgent Petition for Certiorari with Mandamus to Order the Armed Forces of the Philippines to Pull Out Troops from Metro Manila at the Supreme Court today, the groups called the AFP as “a protector of some people by becoming tools of politicians vigorously campaigning against groups that do not share views with, that demand accountability from, that criticize the Executive Branch of Government.”
“The AFP, with Generals Hermogenes Esperon and Benjamin Dolorfino in the lead are committing three grave violations of the Constitution, the Omnibus Election Code and various election rules with the continued deployment of troops in the National Capital Region. They continually violate (1) civilian supremacy, (2) the calling out powers of the Commander-in-Chief (they should be confined to the barracks unless called out by the President) and (3) are actually campaigning against Bayan Muna, Suara Bangsamoro, Kabataan, Gabriela Women’s Party and Anakpawis,” Bayan Muna General Counsel Neri Javier Colmenares said.
Petitioners believe that respondents in deploying AFP troops in residential barangays in Metro Manila “violated the principle of civilian supremacy over the military as enunciated in Sec. 3, Art. II, Constitution.”
“In fact the order of Respondents to deploy the soldiers was not pursuant to an order of the Commander-in-Chief through her “calling out powers,” and thus violated Sec. 18 Art. VII of the Constitution. Even if the deployment was implemented under that provision, upon the orders of Mrs. Arroyo as commander-in-chief, such Order constitutes a grave abuse of discretion on her part since there is no lawless violence, invasion or rebellion in Metro Manila or a threat thereof, that should form the constitutional basis for the said order,” Colmenares said.
“The AFP is essentially engaging in partisan political activity in the residential barangays in Metro Manila – by setting forth criteria to be used by voters in choosing their candidates for elective offices in the guise of “voters’ education,” or by out rightly campaigning against herein petitioners, or by intimidating, harassing or physically assaulting petitioners’ members, supporters and sympathizers – and is therefore a gross violation of Sec. 5 (3), Art. XVI, Constitution, the Omnibus Election Code and various election rules.”
“The AFP generals must be discouraged from entertaining the notion that military participation in politics will go unheeded and unpunished,” Colmenares said.
43rd IB troops in Leyte tear down Bayan Muna posters
Meanwhile in a related incident, Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño received reports that at around 9:00 p.m. last Saturday, four soldiers belonging to the Philippine Army’s 43rd Infantry Battalion in Brgy. Poblacion, Hilongos, Leyte were accosted by residents for tearing down Bayan Muna posters. The soldiers were aboard two motorcycles and even threatened the residents at gunpoint. They insisted they had orders to tear down Bayan Muna posters.
In other towns, soldiers regularly dismantle Bayan Muna posters and streamers, vilify the party and other progressive groups, and openly campaign for ANAD, BANTAY and other pro-administration party-list groups.
Casiño accused the army soldiers stationed in Mahaplag, Hilongos and Inopacan towns of harassing and intimidating Bayan Muna supporters. He called on the Comelec to swiftly act on the matter. "The Comelec should reprimand Army officers engaged in electioneering against progressive party-list groups like Bayan Muna and order their immediate pullout from communities to prevent them from unduly intimidating voters who otherwise would support our party and other progressive party-list groups."