BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
For Bayan Muna (People First) Rep. Teddy Casiño, there is indeed space for progressive groups in the electoral and parliamentary arena, but it is now constricting. “It is getting smaller and smaller because the Arroyo government, which represents the status quo, is afraid of change,” he told Bulatlat in an interview.
Is there real space in the electoral and parliamentary arena for progressive party-list groups?
This question has surfaced amid what has been described as “political persecution” presently being experienced by these progressive representatives – Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casiño, and Joel Virador of Bayan Muna (People First), Crispin Beltran and Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis (Toiling Masses), and Liza Maza of the Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) – in combination with the physical annihilation of leaders, organizers and supporters of these party-list groups.
For Casiño, there is indeed space for these groups in the electoral and parliamentary arena, but it is now constricting. “It is getting smaller and smaller because the Arroyo government, which represents the status quo, is afraid of change,” he told Bulatlat in an interview.
Casiño and the other four representatives eluded attempts to arrest them without warrant while attending a press conference in Quezon City on Feb. 25, a day after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo imposed Proclamation No. 1017, which declared a state of national emergency. Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran did not fare as well: he was on his way to the same press conference when he was arrested, also without warrant, by elements of the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).
The Batasan 5 who evaded arrest consequently had to seek protective custody at the House of Representatives as protection from further attempts to arrest them.
1017 and rebellion
The Arroyo government purportedly issued Proclamation No. 1017 to prevent a coup attempt by elements of the “extreme Left” and the “extreme Right.” The said proclamation was issued hours after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) claimed to have thwarted a mutiny allegedly led by Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim and Col. Ariel Querubin of the Philippine Marines.
The issuance of Proclamation No. 1017 led to the arrests of a number of progressive leaders and other opposition personalities, including Beltran and Army 1Lt. Lawrence San Juan – both of whom were subsequently charged with rebellion.
The DOJ subsequently filed an amended information that included the Batasan 5 and 49 others – including National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) leaders Jose Maria Sison and Luis Jalandoni and former Sen. Gregorio Honasan in the charges.
The amended information cited, among others, a chain of events beginning from the reestablishment of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in 1968 and included the Plaza Miranda bombing in 1971. This applied even to Casiño, who was still in his infancy during the reestablishment of the CPP and the Plaza Miranda bombing.
The amended information was junked by Judge Jenny Lindo Delorino of the Makati City Regional Trial Court on May 4, and only Beltran and San Juan remain as defendants in the rebellion case filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
A few days after the junking of the amended information, the DOJ recalled a standing order to the Philippine National Police (PNP) to arrest the Batasan 5. This signaled their exit from the House of Representatives.
Delorino inhibited herself from the case against Beltran and San Juan on May 10. In her decision to inhibit, Delorino cited accusations from the DOJ that she handled the case with partiality, which she denied.
On May 12, the amended information to the case against Beltran and San Juan was filed as new information, thus making a new case against the Batasan 5 and the 49 others charged together with them.
“The Arroyo government is bent on having all its opponents arrested,” Casiño said. “This is because Arroyo is isolated and becoming more and more desperate.”