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Monthly Archives: March 2006

Our issue for April 1, 2006

PHILIPPINES FREE PRESS

April 1, 2006 Issue

Main Features

1.Cover: Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, Day of Reckoning

The dismissal of the impeachment complaints, the mailed-fist policy against protest rallies, the obstruction of the Arroyo tapes investigation in the House, Executive Order 464, Proclamation No. 1017, the continuing harassment of opposition leaders, the intimidation of the press—all these will come to a confluence and, Sen. Rodolfo Biazon says, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will her “day of reckoning.? The military is a veritable tinder box and despite Gen. Generoso Senga’s five-point “guidance? Biazon, a former Marine commander and chief of the military who still has connections in the armed forces, knows the ranks are seething with anger. The administration had better be careful with handling the “case? of former senator Gregorio Honasan who, according to Biazon, has a following in the military and in the civilian populace who may react if the government insists on putting Honasan away. Honasan has denied involvement in the July 27, 2003 junior officers’ mutiny, but he is a veteran of the coup attempts against the government of President Corazon Aquino and he has gone into hiding since the government brought coup d’ état charges against him in February. The military is bringing charges against Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim before a court-martial for planning to lead the Scout Rangers in a march with the people on February 24, an action construed by the military and the administration as a coup. Under investigation and possibly facing charges is Col. Ariel Querubin for leading the Marines in protesting the relief of their commander, Brig. Gen. Renato Miranda, on February 26. The military is investigating the extent of the action that had been planned against Mrs. Arroyo. Senga, who reportedly refused to join the march, says in his “guidance? that the military should be apolitical and the troops must defend the Constitution. Biazon says Mrs. Arroyo, by proclaiming a state of national emergency and even after lifting it continues to intimidate the opposition and the press, has violated the Constitution. He says it is time to remind the soldiers that “anyone who violates the Constitution is your enemy.?

By Ricky S. Torre
(more…)

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Our issue for March 25, 2006

PHILIPPINES FREE PRESS

March 25, 2006 Issue

Main Features

1.Cover: The Constitutional Commission (with 10-page supplement, Office of the

President)

2. Abuse of Power

The Senate has opened an investigation into the acts of the government following President Arroyo’s declaration of national emergency. What has emerged from the investigation so far is that the government carried out the proclamation as if Mrs. Arroyo had declared martial law. Since the country was not under martial law and since the Bill of Rights had not been suspended, police should not have broken up protest rallies, arrested people without warrants, and intimidated the press. Former Supreme Court justice Vicente Mendoza, testifying at the hearing on Monday, said Mrs. Arroyo would be liable if it could be proved that she authorized these acts. A group of lawyers also warned Mrs. Arroyo that she could not escape responsibility should those acts turn out to have been arbitrary—which they appear to be because the emergency proclamation gave no orders to either the military or the police to do anything that would violate people’s rights. All the arbitrary acts of the military and the police appear to have been carried out on a misunderstanding of General Order No. 5 and General Order No. 6—or on direct orders from some administration official. If it was Mrs. Arroyo, can she be prosecuted? Nope. You cannot sue a sitting president. You must wait until after she leaves office before you bring your lawsuit. Impeachment? Hmm: the Constitution allows the president to place the country or any part of it under a state of emergency but unless it can be proved that Mrs. Arroyo used the proclamation to violate the Bill of Rights, she cannot be held liable for violating the Constitution. Proclamation No. 1017 and General Orders 5 and 6 seem to have been written as generalizations, that is, without specifics that, if violative of the Constitution, can be blamed on Mrs. Arroyo. Add roundup.

By Ricky S. Torre, Butch Serrano, and Wendell Vigilia
(more…)

Our issue for March 4, 2006

PHILIPPINES FREE PRESS

March 4, 2006 Issue

Main Features


1.Cover: 20th Anniversary, People Power Revolution (with 5-page supplement)

2. Buried Alive

Farmer Christopher Lipato was watching his carabao nibble at the grass in the rice field when he heard the roar of something coming from the mountain above the village. When he looked up, he saw a wall of mud speeding across the field and swallowing everything on its path. Lipato, 28, turned and ran like hell, pursued by the furious avalanche of mud and rocks. It was over in 10 minutes. Lipato survived, but lost his wife, son, and father. They were among more than 1,500 people still missing in the mudslide that buried the village of Guinsaugon in St. Bernard town, Southern Leyte, on February 17, a tragedy that geologists say had just been waiting to happen. The province sits on a fault on the earth where the ground is unstable. In December 2003, the top of Panaon Island collapsed, killing more than 100 people. In November 1991, landslides and floods caused by a tropical storm killed 6,000 people on Leyte Island. These were forgotten in the wake of last Friday’s tragedy in Guisaugon. Television talking heads kept asking about logging, mining, and quarrying until the weather bureau explained that it had been raining in Southern Leyte since February 1. The area has an average February rainfall of 127 millimeters in the past 30 years, but the last two weeks brought a rainfall of 500 millimeters. Two weeks of continuous rains softened the mountainside, planted to coconut trees whose roots cannot hold too much water, and at about 10:30 a.m. on February 17, gravity pulled down a part of the mountainside that had been so weakened. The avalanche of water, mud, rocks and coconut trees buried 300 homes and an elementary school. Reports say up to 3,000 people lived in the village. About 200 children and teachers were in the school at the time of the tragedy. An international rescue team, including 1,000 US Marines, is digging through the mud against wind and rain to find the buried homes and the school. More than 170 people have been rescued and 74 bodies recovered as of Tuesday. Text messages, probably coming from teachers in the buried school, give the rescuers hope that people are still alive under the mud.

By Ricky S. Torre
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Our issue for February 25, 2006

PHILIPPINES FREE PRESS

February 25, 2006 Issue

Main Features

1.Cover: EO 464

Anticipating a restraining order to come down from the Supreme Court, Malacañang has allowed administration officials to go to budget hearings in the Senate. The Palace has also let it be known that President Arroyo is willing to recall her controversial Executive Order 464 if the senators are willing to behave. This shows the Palace is no longer sure it can win this case despite its repeated assertions of confidence that the Supreme Court will decide for the order. Mrs. Arroyo may have the majority on the court—nine against four—but not the assurance that her appointees will deliver. What is at stake here is not the Senate’s pride, but the constitutional requirement of openness in government and the people’s right to know what their government is doing in their interest or against their interest. Mrs. Arroyo has issued the order prohibiting government, military and police officials from appearing before any congressional investigation without her permission supposedly to protect the officials from humiliation, following the experience of National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales in the Senate last year. But the real purpose of the order is clear to the senators: Mrs. Arroyo has skeletons hidden in Malacañang. Her new chief of staff, Michael Defensor, has said it: the order is intended “to protect the administration.? He does not mean the skeletons in Mrs. Arroyo’s closet, of course. But his choice of words is really descriptive of the order’s purpose. Without the order, the Senate will find more evidence and confirmation that P728 million in agricultural funds and P100 million in recovered Marcos ill-gotten wealth was channeled to Mrs. Arroyo’s presidential campaign in 2004. The Senate may also just succeed in squeezing an admission from some military official of unlawful surveillance of the opposition during the election, an operation that led to military intelligence agents’ tracking of Mrs. Arroyo’s phone conversations with her henchman in the Commission on Elections, Virgilio Garcillano—and the Arroyo tapes scandal. Satisfying the senators is dangerous to Mrs. Arroyo, who is invoking executive privilege in this controversy. But her privilege is hobbling legislative work and preventing the people to know what is going on in her government. And just as important, her executive privilege is keeping from the people the answer to their question, Is she their president or not?

By Ricky S. Torre, Butch Serrano and Wendell Vigilia
(more…)

Our issue for February 18, 2006

PHILIPPINES FREE PRESS

February 18, 2006 Issue

Main Features

1.Cover: “70 Lives to the Peso?

The ABS-CBN program Wowowee was to celebrate its first anniversary on Saturday, but the crowds began gathering outside the Philsports Arena in Pasig City as early as Wednesday, hoping to be first at the gates and sure tickets. The lucky ones would get cash giveaways of P300 to P10,000. But the really big prizes were a home worth P2.5 million, P1 million in cash, and a public utility jeep. By Friday night, the crowds outside the arena had swelled to more than 30,000—too big for a facility that had a seating capacity of only 9,000 and field capacity of only 8,000. Yet the management of the network, the local government, and the city police sensed no danger. Police, though trained in crowd control and familiar with the lack of discipline of the poor, should have stopped the crowd buildup, told the people to go home and come back on Saturday. They did not. When the gate to the arena opened at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, thousands of people looking for a meal for even just one day, taking their chance own a house, maybe capital for a variety store, perhaps jeep to drive for a living, pushed and shoved, throwing hundreds of people in front down the ramp to the arena. People, mostly women, many of them elderly, were already getting crushed to death in front yet people on the street kept pushing and fighting for a way through. After police and arena security forces had quelled the crowd, more than 70 people lay dead or dying. The final death toll would come up to 74. Don’t ask how this tragedy happened. The investigation that President Arroyo had ordered had traced the stampede to lack of precaution on the part of the network’s management. The question is, why did this tragedy happen? Activist and civic groups and social commentators immediately saw why: poverty drove those thousands to Philsports Arena and to their deaths. While the Arroyo administration is trumpeting nice figures that are truly nothing but economic indicators, the majority of Filipinos are going hungry. “The Ultra stampede is the real state of the economy,? says Sinlakas president Wilson Fortaleza. “It’s not 51 pesos to the dollar. It’s 70 lives to the peso.? But Malacañang cannot see the connection. Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye says President Arroyo should not be blamed for the stampede because she works hard to improve the economy. How—by taking the last bite from the mouth of poor with her 12 percent value-added tax?

By Ricky S. Torre

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Our issue for March 11, 2006

FREE PRESS

March 11, 2006 Issue

 

Main Features

 

1.Cover: Never mind

c/o Advertising and Butch Serrano

 

2. Clear and Present Danger

On February 24, 1986, Ferdinand Marcos, under siege by Filipinos who had

had enough of his close to 20 years of despotic rule, declared a state of

national emergency with the intention of crushing the popular uprising. We

already know how Marcos’s effort to save his presidency ended. Exactly 20

years later, on February 24, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, accused of vote

fraud and corruption, declared a state of national emergency and turned

the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the 1986 People Power

revolution that toppled Marcos from a power into a day of attacks on the

Filipinos’ civil liberties. She canceled the celebration and ordered the

arrest of rally leaders and people allegedly involved in a “conspiracy”

between opposition politicians and communist rebels  to overthrow her

government. There was clear and present danger to the state and the

people, she said—the night before the military stopped the plan of Brig.

Gen. Danilo Lim to lead the Scout Rangers in a march with the people

during the next day’s celebration and there announce their withdrawal of

support for Mrs. Arroyo. There was no mention of arms, just a march, but

Mrs. Arroyo’s chief of staff, Michael Defensor, explained on television

that there would be weapons during the celebration, and the government had

to defend itself. The military chief, Gen. Genereso Senga, said “there was

no coup,” just a march by soldiers, but the government had since been

talking about a foiled coup attempt, and events of the next three days

would raise questions about the real intentions of the proclamation. The

police raided the office of the Daily Tribune, a newspaper critical of

Mrs. Arroyo, and warned the press of a state takeover if radio and

television stations and newspapers if they did not meet government

standards of reporting the news, and rounded up opposition politicians and

a retired military general. The Justice Department also brought coup

d’état charges against former senator Gregorio Honasan, but not in

connection with the alleged people power coup but with the July 27, 2003

junior officers’ mutiny against Mrs. Arroyo. The arrest of Party-list Rep.

Crispin Beltran also had nothing to do with the alleged new coup, but with

a 1985 charge of subversion, mooted with the fall Marcos and mooted again

with Congress’s repeal of the antisubversion law during the term of

President Fidel Ramos. About 200 people are reportedly to be arrested by

the police and the military but the names on those lists, at least those

identified by news reports, are mostly critics of Mrs. Arroyo, not known

enemies of the state. Former president Corazon Aquino, who continues to

urge Mrs. Arroyo to step down, is also facing investigation. Former

president Fidel Ramos, who wondered whether he, too, was on the list of

those to be arrested, blasted the proclamation as “precooked” and an

“overkill,” the result of a miscalculation of the situation. In both, he

is right. The administration had been toying with the idea of a state of

emergency proclamation since the height of Mrs. Arroyo’s crisis last year,

with Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales telling reporters that he had drafted

such a proclamation, which would include government takeover of utilities.

It was that information that caused the falling out between the Lopezes,

who own Meralco and the ABS-CBN television and radio networks, and Mrs.

Arroyo. The Palace knew that the opposition would not stop until Mrs.

Arroyo was forced to step down or got removed from office by impeachment

or by people power, so the invocation of a conspiracy as pretext for the

proclamation. The real intention of the edict is undoubtedly to crush

opposition to Mrs. Arroyo, including forcing an end to questions about the

legitimacy of her rule. It is true, however, that there are problems in

the military. Lim’s decision and the Marines’ protest on Sunday, provoked

by the relief of their commander, Maj. Gen. Renato Miranda, showed

weakening loyalty in the military, though not to the Constitution but to

Mrs. Arroyo. Several groups, including 17 lawyers’ organizations, the

editor of the Tribune, the arrested UP professor Randy David, and former

senator Loren Legarda were the first to challenge the legality of Mrs.

Arroyo’s proclamation in the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Artemio

Panganiban said the court would take up the case in Tuesday’s full-court

session.

By Ricky S. Torre and Wendell Vigilia

 

3. Suppressing Opposition

The Senate passes a resolution condemning President Arroyo’s Proclamation

1017, and the senators prepare to challenge the legality of the

declaration of national emergency in the Supreme Court. The senators say

the crackdown will not stop the investigations into alleged irregularities

in Mrs. Arroyo’s administration, particularly the funneling of P748

million in agricultural funds and P100 million in recovered Marcos

ill-gotten wealth to Mrs. Arroyo’s 2004 presidential campaign. In the

House of Representatives, the minority sees the proclamation as nothing

but an attempt by the administration to silence the opposition and force

an end to all questions about the legitimacy of Mrs. Arroyo’s rule. The

minority will join civil liberties groups and the Senate in questioning

the proclamation in the Supreme Court.

By Guiller de Guzman, Butch Serrano, and Wendell Vigilia

 

4. Gone Forever

One week after the February 17 mudslide that buried the farming village of

Guinsaugon, in Southern Leyte, an international team of rescuers that

included 1,000 US Marines gives up the search for survivors. More than 900

people, including 200 children and teachers in the village elementary

school, are buried under 30 m of mud. The exact death toll will never be

known, as there is no record of the exact population of Guinsaugon—or any

municipality in the Philippines because of the absence of a national

census. The search for survivors has been hampered by rains that make

digging in the deep mud extremely dangerous for the rescuers. The foreign

rescuers have started to pull out, leaving the grim task of digging for

bodies to the Filipino volunteers. Municipal and provincial officials plan

to make Guinsaugon a “memorial sanctuary”—a cemetery for the missing and

presumed dead.

By Guiller de Guzman and Nati Nuguid

 

 

Two (2) editorials:

 

The Philippines Free Press abhors and condemns any military plot to

overthrow the civilian government, elected or not, but we also abhor and

condemn the civilian government’s assault on the Filipinos’ civil

liberties. The government of President Corazon Aquino fought nine coup

attempts but Mrs. Aquino never even entertained the idea of curbing the

Filipinos’ constitutional rights.