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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

3. Was There A Coup Plot?

Little by little the truth about the supposed coup plot against President Arroyo is coming out. Not only the Rangers, but also the Marines had planned to march with the people on EDSA on February 24. The soldiers would march with their rifles carried muzzle down. Then they would announce their breakaway from Mrs. Arroyo. There would be no assault on Malacañang, none on any government installation. It wasn’t a coup, just removing from Mrs. Arroyo the might of the military. The leaders had hoped to carry the other services and the military chief, Gen. Generoso Senga. Their plan was to set up a military-civilian caretaker government that would include opposition leaders and call a new presidential election. The problem of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo would then be solved. But the leaders had underestimated Senga and the other service commanders. The senior officers balked and Senga reported the plan to Mrs. Arroyo, who probably had just been waiting for such a development because the ranks had been rife with talk of the military’s role in the rigging of the 2004 presidential election. Mrs. Arroyo had been ready with a response that her administration had been preparing since last year, a proclamation of a state of national emergency. But while the Constitution gives her the power to place the country or any part of it under a state of emergency, there is a question of whether Proclamation No. 17 was necessary. As the so-called plot unravels, it is becoming clear that the troops had not planned to overthrow the government by force but only to break away from Mrs. Arroyo so that she would be forced to step down. And it is also becoming clearer that one big reason for the restiveness in the ranks is the question of the legitimacy of Mrs. Arroyo’s rule. In short, Mrs. Arroyo is the reason for the instability in the military.

By Guiller de Guzman

4. Falling into Apathy

How can Filipinos just stand by as Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo tramples on their freedoms? Sen. Joker Arroyo is frustrated as the people just take what Mrs. Arroyo, apparently in the grip of a “fascist clique? in the administration, dishes out, including police violence against women demonstrators. Where is the Filipinos’ sense of righteousness? Where is their famous fighting spirit? Why have they fallen into apathy?

By Guiller de Guzman

5. Insensitive and Stupid

Only a little more than a month after the stampede that killed 71 people and injured hundreds of others, ABS-CBN returns the noontime show Wowowee on the air, still luring audiences from Metropolitan Manila’s slums with cash prizes for no-brain games and performances. The survivors of the stampede of the February 4 stampede and the families of those who died are asking through the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption that the show be kept suspended until after the case is rested and all the people responsible for the tragedy are appropriately punished. The National Bureau of Investigation has concluded its investigation into the stampede and found 17 people, mostly officials of ABS-CBN, liable for the deaths and injuries to the people who went to the Ultra stadium in Pasig City five weeks ago to try their luck in the first-anniversary presentation of the show. While the NBI found Pasig Mayor Vicente Eusebio also liable for the stampede, it surprisingly found no liability on the part of the city police, which allowed the crowd outside the Ultra stadium to build up over three days. It was not a failure of law and order but a failure of crowd control, the NBI says So its’ all right for the police to just sit and do nothing while 30,000 people push and shove to get into an arena that can hold only 17,000.

By Guiller de Guzman and Nati Nuguid

Two (2) editorials

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