ON THE 34TH ANNIVERSARY
OF MARTIAL LAW
With resurrection of
‘Arroyo May Next Declare Martial Law’
With the resurrection of one of a series
of decrees denounced by civil libertarians as “repressive” and declared by
the Supreme Court as unconstitutional, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
may next declare martial law.
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
With the resurrection
of one of a series of decrees denounced by civil libertarians as
“repressive” and declared by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional,
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo may next declare martial law. This was
the observation made by lawyer Neri Javier Colmenares, spokesperson of the
broad-based Counsels for the Defense of Liberties (CODAL), in an interview
In late September
last year, Arroyo issued Executive Order No. 464 requiring cabinet
members, police and military generals, senior national security officials,
and “such other national officers as may be determined by the (president)”
to secure clearance from the Malacañang before testifying in any hearing
conducted by the Senate or the House of Representatives.
EO 464 was one of the
so-called “repressive” decrees issued by Malacañang amid a spate of
challenges to the Arroyo administration, spurred mainly by the revival in
mid-2005 of allegations that she cheated her way to victory in the 2004
election – in which she is supposed to have received a fresh mandate three
years after being catapulted to power through a popular uprising. The
other decrees are: the calibrated preemptive response (CPR) policy issued
in mid-September last year, imposing a blanket prohibition on all protest
actions against the government; and Presidential Proclamation No. 1017,
issued February 2006, declaring a state of emergency throughout the
“CPR removed the
maximum tolerance policy required even under Batas Pambansa Blg. 880,”
Colmenares said. “It was a signal to all police and authorities to use
force immediately (on protest actions).”
BP 880 was issued in
1985, amid major rallies against the Marcos dictatorship. Seeking to
regulate the conduct of rallies, BP 880 requires groups to secure permits
to rally before holding protest actions, but it also requires local
government units to approve all applications for rally permits – unless
there is evidence of what is called a “clear and present danger” to peace
Colmenares said BP
880 should have been abolished considering the presence of a clear freedom
of assembly, speech and expression clause in the 1987 Constitution, but it
continues to be used especially under the Arroyo administration.
Art. III, Sec. 4 of
the 1987 Constitution provides: “No law shall be passed abridging the
freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the
people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of
“In fact Arroyo is
the only president to use BP 880 actively since Marcos,” Colmenares said.
“Now BP 880 is already repressive, but CPR heightened the repression.”
said, PP 1017 addressed the Arroyo government’s “need” for a situation
where it could easily arrest people.
“One way of
instituting that was by declaring a state of emergency, where there
appeared to be a threat and therefore it would be acceptable if you arrest
people,” the CODAL spokesperson said.
He added that PP 1017
produced a “chilling effect” on the people. “They didn’t arrest everyone,
but they scared everyone,” he pointed out.
PP 1017 was
definitely repressive, Colmenares said. “You don’t declare a state of
emergency if there is no emergency,” he said. “You don’t arrest people
unless they have committed a crime and there is a warrant of arrest
against them – not because you feel that there is a threat against you.”
The imposition of PP
1017 led to the arrests of known activists and opposition figures like
professor Randy David and Ronald Llamas, lawyer Argee Guevarra, Reps.
Crispin Beltran and Joel Virador, labor leaders Dennis Maga and Marcial
Dabela, and retired generals Ramon Montaño and Rex Piad. Beltran continues
to languish in detention more than six months after his arrest.
Colmenares said the
CPR policy, EO 464, and PP 1017 – put together – amounted to a martial-law
“What is martial
law?” Colmenares said. “Martial law is a situation where the military
reigns supreme over civilian authority. (It is a situation where) the
military has held sway over the rest of the government.”
Lawyers’ groups like
CODAL and the Alternative Law Group (ALG) contested the CPR policy, EO 464
and PP 1017 before the Supreme Court.
On May 3, the Supreme
Court struck down the CPR policy, EO 464, and portions of PP 1017 as
unconstitutional. The Supreme Court particularly ruled against the
warrantless arrests conducted under PP 1017.
Despite the Supreme
Court ruling on the said decrees, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita
issued, by authority from Malacañang, Memorandum Circular No. 108 –
essentially a rehash of EO 464 – last July 26.
When asked whether he
thought Arroyo would eventually resurrect the CPR policy and PP 1017 under
different names, considering the issuance of MC 108, Colmenares said the
next step may be an outright declaration of martial law.
“It can happen
again,” he said. “Maybe they’ll next declare martial law.” Bulatlat
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© 2006 Bulatlat
Alipato Media Center
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