The CPR order was issued ironically on the very same day that Martial Law was declared 33 years earlier – on September 21, 2005. CPR became a very frightening Executive Order which aggravates an existing law – Batas Pambansa 880 or Public Assembly Act – that was enacted in 1985 or during the Marcos regime precisely to curtail the ever-growing resistance of the people following the assassination of Ninoy Aquino. Marcos issued BP 880 under the guise of regulating the rights to assembly, but in fact it was an excuse for the police to curtail the rights to assembly and to seek redress for grievances. CPR basically means, that if you don’t have permit then we gonna beat you up, it is as simple as that. It gave the police a blanket authority to break up peaceful assemblies or manhandle not only workers and peasants but also church people, even women and children for that matter.
Arroyo tried to justify CPR by saying the country needs peace and order. But she issued it at the height of the impeachment moves against her. It was enforced to respond to the outrage of the people ignited by the defeat of the impeachment (in Congress) by the use of sheer numbers of pro-Arroyo congressmen.
With regard to Executive Order 464, its context is also relevant because laws are not created in a vacuum, they are created as a response to a situation. Basically, laws perpetuate the interest of the ruling class in a society and are a means of subjugating people. EO 464 was issued in the context of the mounting protests against the GMA government over widespread corruption, bad governance and for its being an illegitimate government. EO 464 mandates that all executive officials cannot appear before Congress in any investigation, in aid of legislation especially those that concern sensitive issues that might be prejudicial to the Arroyo government.
The third, Presidential Proclamation 1017, was issued in February 2006. Under the guise of quelling an alleged rebellion against the Arroyo government – the so-called conspiracy between the left and right – GMA issued 1017 in the context again of a growing mass movement that threatened to oust her in February. She wanted to nip it in the bud by issuing the proclamation that gave her almost absolute power such as giving the military and police blanket authority to commit human rights violations.
Thus, 1017 is akin to an undeclared martial law. But in essence, that is martial law because certain rights were suspended and discretion was given to security forces.
The last one which would complete the legal infrastructure for the perpetuation of GMA’s hold to illegitimate power, if I may say so, is the Human Security Act or the Anti-terrorism law.
By the way, the first three were questioned before the Supreme Court and the latter ruled the CPR, EO 464, BP 1017 as unconstitutional. Despite the fact they were declared unconstitutional, in practice, the military or the police are still beating up rallies on the flimsy excuse that these don’t have a permit…Likewise, despite the fact that Proclamation 1017 was declared unconstitutional, Ka Bel (Rep. Crispin Beltran) and Ka Satur (Rep. Satur Ocampo) were arrested separately, people got arrested even without the presidential proclamation, because of other existing repressive laws and jurisprudence I mentioned earlier.
The anti-terrorism law is the icing on the cake really and which would complete the legal infrastructure. To the credit of the protest movement, the anti-terrorism bill took a long time before it was passed into law. It started in 2002, immediately after 9/11. The Philippines is one of the few remaining countries that do not have an anti-terrorism law or national security law in the mold of the Patriot Act or other anti-terrorism laws in other countries.
Eventually the anti-terrorism law was enacted by maneuvers, schemes, and with the support of the U.S. The anti-terrorism law is draconian, anti-people, and is very dangerous for many reasons. But basically the most fundamental objection is how it defines a terrorist act. According to this law, a terrorist act or terrorism is an act or omission that creates an overwhelming fear or a sense of chaos among the general populace with the intention of compelling the government to do an illegal act. That definition has been criticized even by the International Commission of Jurists and the UN Special Rapporteur on Terrorism in Relation to Human Rights, as very vague, very broad as to cover almost anything, especially legitimate protest or dissent and including acts of national liberation movements which under international law must be respected and should not be tagged as terrorism. That is the most fundamental point. There are other features that would support the observation that it is fascist and draconian. For instance, even if one is out on bail, you can be confined to your house, or to your municipality or to your city for an indefinite period. You are incommunicado, you cannot use the phone, you cannot use email you can’t use anything at all.