This story was taken from Bulatlat, the Philippines's alternative weekly newsmagazine (www.bulatlat.com, www.bulatlat.net, www.bulatlat.org).
Vol. VI, No. 4, February 26 - March 4, 2006


 

Arroyo Opponents Hit State of Emergency Declaration

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has received a storm of criticism from her opponents from various political shades for issuing Feb. 24 – the same day that the 20th anniversary of the People Power uprising which toppled the Marcos dictatorship was being commemorated – Proclamation No. 1017 which declares the entire country as being in a state of national emergency.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Bulatlat

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has received a storm of criticism from her opponents from various political shades for issuing Feb. 24 – the same day that the 20th anniversary of the People Power uprising which toppled the Marcos dictatorship was being commemorated – Proclamation No. 1017 which declares the entire country as being in a state of national emergency.

The declaration of a state of national emergency came a few hours after Philippine Army Chief Lt. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon announced on television that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) had thwarted a coup attempt by a group of officers allegedly led by Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim and Col. Ariel Querubin, both members of the original Young Officers Union (YOU), which also figured in a coup attempt in 1989 against then President Corazon Aquino. At the time that Proclamation No. 1017 was issued, rallies commemorating the 20th anniversary of the first People Power uprising while at the same time calling for Macapagal-Arroyo’s ouster were being held, at the EDSA Shrine by the Gloria Step Down Movement (GSM), Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance), People’s Movement Against Poverty (PMAP), Union of the Masses for Justice and Democracy (UMDJ), and the Kilusan para sa Makatarungang Lipunan at Gobyerno (KMLG or Movement for a Just Society and Government); and at Santolan by the Laban ng Masa (The Masses’ Fight).

Citing an alleged conspiracy among elements of the opposition, the “extreme Left represented by the CPP-NPA-NDFP (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army- National Democratic Front) and the extreme Right, represented by military adventurists,” Proclamation No. 1017 invokes Sec. 18, Art. 7 of the Constitution, which enables the President to call on the armed forces to “prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion,” as well as Sec. 17, Art. 12 which states that: “In times of national emergency, when the public interest so requires, the State may, during the emergency and under reasonable terms prescribed by it, temporarily take over or direct the operation of any privately-owned public utility or business affected with public interest.”

The issuance of Proclamation No. 1017 paved the way for violent dispersals of the two rallies and arrests of some of their leaders and participants. A number of GSM, Bayan, and PMAP members were hurt in the dispersal at the EDSA Shrine, while among those arrested at the Santolan rally were professors Randy David  and Ronald Llamas and lawyer Argee Guevarra.

“This shows that the government is afraid of the people who are fighting,” Dinky Soliman, former social welfare secretary, said to reporters about the dispersals and arrests. “What crime did Professor David commit? He committed no crime except walking peacefully to commemorate the anniversary of People Power, the real meaning of People Power.

Soliman is one of the so-called Hyatt 10, cabinet officials who resigned in July last year amid renewed controversy fuelled by allegations that Macapagal-Arroyo cheated her way to victory in the 2004 election, where she is supposed to have received a fresh mandate three years after being catapulted to power through a popular uprising that deposed former President Joseph Estrada. She was interviewed by reporters at the Ninoy Aquino monument at Ayala Avenue, Makati City, where protesters coming from the EDSA Shrine and Santolan had proceeded, braving the scorching afternoon heat, after being dispersed and joined former President Corazon Aquino at a wreath-laying ceremony.

Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo expressed a view similar to Soliman’s. “I see no reason to arrest Professor David,” he said in an interview during the Ayala rally. “He was in the act of negotiating with the police in the hope that they be allowed to march to wherever their group intended to hold their program. Arresting negotiators during rallies sends a very bad signal.”

Meanwhile, Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez, a former national security adviser, called the dispersals and arrests “an example of abuse of power.” He also said that Proclamation No. 1017 has no basis.

Ocampo also described the declaration of a state of national emergency as bordering on a declaration of martial law.

“I think this is a government that is afraid, hiding behind what they call the law, and is not even sure of support from its own Armed Forces,” Soliman said of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration.

If Proclamation No. 1017 intended to quell protest actions, its issuance yesterday appeared to achieve the opposite, as shown by the fact that the Ayala rally pushed through as planned and the crowd kept growing until early evening. When the crowd at Ayala was about to disperse peacefully, scores of policemen wielding truncheons chased them towards EDSA to the indignation of the bystanders, who booed the police.

When news of the declaration of a state of national emergency started to leak near noontime, Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, who was supposed to say mass at the EDSA Shrine as part of the program there, said the proclamation could end up enraging the people instead of quelling dissension.

“I am alarmed for those in power,” Iñiguez, who also chairs the Commission on Ecumenical Affairs of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), told reporters at the EDSA Shrine when asked whether the declaration alarmed him. “If they cannot defend the legitimacy (of this declaration), that will be very bad for them. They will be in a state of emergency.” Bulatlat

 

© 2006 Bulatlat  Alipato Publications

Permission is granted to reprint or redistribute this article, provided its author/s and Bulatlat are properly credited and notified.