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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.

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