‘Martial Law Na Ba?’ (Is It Now Martial Law?)

Posted 4:21 p.m., March 21, 2007

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr. had one question as he spoke late this morning before a rally of hundreds near the Manila Police District (MPD) in Manila.

Martial law na ba?” (Is it now Martial Law?) Reyes cried as he denounced what he described as “the unbridled repression being imposed by the Arroyo regime against its critics in the Left, the opposition and the media.”

The ralliers, who belonged to the progressive party-list group Bayan Muna (People First) and to organizations under the umbrella of Bayan, declared March 21 as a “national day of protest” to call for the release of Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Crispin Beltran, as well as to demand a stop to what they described as political repression. “We come out today to protest the unjust detention of Ka Satur and Ka Bel and the continuing imprisonment of the Filipino people by a repressive regime,” Reyes said.

They marched from the Plaza Miranda in Quiapo to United Nations Avenue, where the MPD headquarters is located.

The protesters intended to hold their program in front of the MPD headquarters, where Ocampo has been held since Friday afternoon. They were, however, stopped by police at the corner of Taft and United Nations Avenues. After a few minutes of negotiation, the anti-riot police stepped back and allowed the ralliers to hold their program a little less than a hundred meters away from the MPD headquarters.

Meanwhile, political prisoners all over the rally held a sympathy fast for Ocampo and Beltran. As of December 2006, the Arroyo regime holds a total of 232 political prisoners nationwide.

Ocampo was arrested Friday on multiple murder charges for having allegedly supervised the executions of 15 members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) in Inopacan, Leyte in 1984. This, even as he is confirmed to have been in maximum security detention at the time the executions were supposed to have been committed.

On Monday morning, police dragged a defiant Ocampo from his holding room and into a plane and tried to bring him to Leyte even as the warrant for his arrest is being challenged before the Supreme Court. A court order halting his transfer sent the plane carrying him back to Manila even before it could land on Leyte.

“We are worried about how this will bear on the people’s rights,” Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño told Bulatlat in an interview. “If they can do that to Ka Satur, who is an elected official, they can do that to ordinary citizens. We are also concerned about how this can impact on the party-list system, because if they are not stopped now, they will ease out progressive party-list groups from the party-list system, and that will not be good for whatever democracy we are still supposed to have.”

Beltran, meanwhile, has been confined under police custody at the Philippine Heart Center since early last year. He was arrested without warrant on Feb. 25 last year for his alleged participation in a conspiracy between the CPP-NPA and the dissident military group Makabayang Kawal Pilipino (MKP) to overthrow the Arroyo regime, even as he is confirmed to have been attending congressional hearings when the plot was supposedly being hatched.

“Everywhere today, you can see the patterns of repression, be it against the Left, the opposition and even members of the media,” Reyes said. “There is no denying that the atmosphere in the Philippines is one of terror and repression.”

Casiño left the rally at a little past noon to lead Bayan Muna in filing a case at the Commission on Elections against members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) deployed in Lupang Pangako, Payatas, Quezon City for electioneering, as well as threatening and intimidating Alberto Corbes, one of the party-list group’s coordinators in the said urban poor community.

After the program, which lasted until a little past 1 p.m., the ralliers peacefully dispersed.

The rally took place hours before the opening of the Second Session on the Philippines of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) at The Hague, The Netherlands, where the Arroyo regime faces charges for violations of the Filipino people’s civil and political rights as well as their economic, social, and cultural rights.(Bulatlat.com)

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