Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. VI, No. 14      May 14-20, 2006      Quezon City, Philippines











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Batasan 5: Short-lived Freedom?

Less than a week after being able to finally leave the House of Representatives following more than two months of protective custody, the so-called Batasan 5 party-list representatives – Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casiño, and Joel Virador of Bayan Muna (People First), Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis (Toiling Masses), and Liza Maza of the Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) – face a new threat of arrest.


Less than a week after being able to finally leave the House of Representatives following more than two months of protective custody, the so-called Batasan 5 party-list representatives – Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casiño, and Joel Virador of Bayan Muna (People First), Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis (Toiling Masses), and Liza Maza of the Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) – face a new threat of arrest.

On May 12, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a rebellion case against the Batasan 5 and 49 other personalities, including National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) leaders Jose Maria Sison and Luis Jalandoni and former Sen. Gregorio Honasan. This is the second rebellion charge filed against them following the junking of the amended information in the case against Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran and 1Lt. Lawrence San Juan, in which they were included as accused.

Ocampo, however, told Bulatlat in an interview that for so long as there is yet no warrant of arrest against them, they are optimistic that they would be able to perform their regular duties at the House of Representatives. “There will have to be a series of hearings first to determine if there is probable cause to arrest us,” he said.

The Batasan 5 had to seek the protective custody of the House of Representatives after eluding attempts to arrest them without warrant at a press conference in Quezon City on Feb. 25, a day after Arroyo issued Proclamation No. 1017 declaring a state of national emergency.

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 to be 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 Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran, who is still in detention. Authorities likewise tried to arrest the representatives now known as the Batasan 5.

Beltran and rebel officer 1Lt. Lawrence San Juan were charged with rebellion. The DOJ subsequently filed an amended information that included the Batasan 5 and 49 others 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.

The amended information was junked on May 4, and only Beltran and San Juan remain as defendants in the rebellion case filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ however still had an option to file the amended information as new information.

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.

But Judge Jenny Lind Delorino, who handled the rebellion case which was filed at the Makati City Regional Trial Court, told reporters the DOJ still has an option to sue the Batasan 5. “They can refile the case,” she said. “In fact that is in my resolution (and) they can refile it as new information.”

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.

Delorino’s decision to inhibit herself from handling the rebellion case against Beltran and San Juan prompted the filing of a new case against the Batasan 5 and the 49 other personalities charged in the amended information, Senior State Prosecutor Emmanuel Velasco told media on May 12.

Ocampo and the other Batasan 5 party-list representatives have not been taking things sitting down, however. They have a pending petition at the Supreme Court to inhibit the DOJ from prosecuting them.

The petition cites, among others, what Ocampo describes as the DOJ’s “patent bias” in handling the case against them as well as the 49 others implicated in the rebellion case. “They immediately reject all our motions,” he said, “before these could be studied closely.”

Meanwhile, pending the issuance of arrest warrants, the Batasan 5 expect to be able to work when the congressional session resumes, as well as when the next session starts following President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) this coming July.

“We are preparing for whatever measures the government may seek to fast-track,” Ocampo said. “We are ready to oppose these.”

Even as debates on charter change through the so-called people’s initiative rage, Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Constantino Jaraula has recently filed House Resolution No. 1230 calling for Congress to be convened into a constituent assembly to speed up the introduction of amendments and revisions to the Constitution. Attached to HR 1230 is a draft constitution replacing the presidential form of government with parliamentary form, and further opening up the economy to foreign investors.

The Batasan 5 is known to have registered the strongest position in the House of Representatives against charter change. Ocampo says he is optimistic that they will be able to carry that position in the coming House debates.

Their group will also be in charge of handling the human rights aspect of the second impeachment complaint to be filed against Arroyo, Ocampo said in an earlier interview.

It will be recalled that impeachment charges were filed last year against Arroyo at the House of Representatives. But these were thrown out after the ruling party used its numbers to reject the complaint on technicalities. The opposition is again set to file another impeachment complaint after the one-year grace period for filing another complaint lapses in July. 

The original impeachment complaint, filed by lawyer Oliver Lozano, charged Arroyo with betrayal of public trust. It cited as basis her admission that she talked with election officials during the counting of votes in the 2004 presidential election.

An amended version of the Lozano complaint, meanwhile, accused her of bribery, graft and corruption, and culpable violation of the Constitution aside from betrayal of public trust. Among the charges leveled against her by the amended impeachment complaint was complicity in human rights abuses committed by state forces, falling under culpable violation of the Constitution.

Whether or not the Batasan 5 can add their voice to the critical debates regarding charter change and the second impeachment complaint depends on the government’s moves to have them arrested anew on charges they have described as “absurd” and “incredible.” Bulatlat



© 2006 Bulatlat  Alipato Publications

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