PHILIPPINES FREE PRESS
June 10, 2006 Issue
1. Cover: Sen. Edgardo Angara (with 8-page LPD supplement)
On the cover:
666: The Devil and End Times (the remake of The Omen)
By Gerard Ramos
2. Dark Days for Human Rights
The warrantless arrest of five supporters of ousted president Joseph Estrada by military agents last week and the murders of Bayan Muna leader Noli Capulong on Saturday and former NPA peace talks adviser Sotero Llamas on Monday have worsened the image of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s government as a violator of human rights. The deaths of Capulong and Llamas take to 224 the number of leftists to be killed since Mrs. Arroyo assumed office in 2001. The killings have attracted the attention of international human-rights groups and on the initiative of Gabriela foreign human-rights lawyers have arrived in Manila to look into the murders. US Ambassador to the Philippines Kirstie Kenny also has expressed the American government’s concern over the killings of leftists. The killing of journalists has added to suspicions that the Arroyo administration is a human-rights violator, prompting an investigation by the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee headed by Republican Sen. Richard Lugar. The administration has told the US government that it is investigating the killings, but the deaths of Capulong and Llamas seem to show that nothing is being done to stop what appears to be a campaign to eliminate the leadership of the Left. Mrs. Arroyo has already tried to crush opposition to her rule by placing the Philippines under a state of emergency for a week in February, during which leftist leaders were arrested and charged with rebellion only to lose in the courts. The Supreme Court has struck down the emergency proclamation as unconstitutional and Makati Regional Trial Court has refused to accept the information against five leftist members of the House of Representatives. Party-list Rep. Crispin Beltran remains under police custody, accused of rebellion, an offense he had committed against the Marcos government and for which he received pardoned from President Corazon Aquino in 1986. The arrest of Estrada’s supporters, meanwhile, shows the military and the police cannot be trusted, endangering the terrorism bill approved by the House of Representatives in April and its counterpart bill in the Senate.
By Ricky S. Torre
3. New Defense Deal
The Philippines and the United States have signed a new security arrangement involving “nontraditional threats”: terrorism, transnational crime and disease that can spread across borders. The new agreement updates the 1956 Mutual Defense Treaty, which has alarmed the Senate—the country’s treaty-ratifying body—as the government has not disclosed the contents of the arrangement. Does this arrangement require the presence here of US troops other than those allowed under the Visiting Forces Agreement?
By Guiller de Guzman
4. See You in the Supreme Court
Some stupid members of the House of Representatives call last week’s meeting with members of the Senate on the administration’s persistence to amend the Constitution a “breakthrough” even though the two sides reached no agreement other than to meet again on June 8. Some House members, however, know that the senators are just playing for time. When the third regular session of Congress opens in July, any talk about amending the Constitution will be too late to serve Malacañang’s purpose: abolish the Senate to stop all investigations into irregularities in the government and, of course, prevent the impeachment of President Arroyo. Some of Mrs. Arroyo’s allies therefore prefer a confrontation with the senators in the Supeme Court over the correct interpretation of the constitutional provision on the congressional vote for amendments to the Constitution. They are taking a risk, because the bicameral division of Congress is clear in the Constitution. But, as in Mrs. Arroyo’s dictatorial policies that the Supreme Court had struck down, they seem not to have learned a lesson and counting on the magistrates’ gratitude to the President to win a ruling in favor of a single, majority vote. They can try.
By Guiller de Guzman and Wendell Vigilia
5. Skin The Watchdog
It seems that the Arroyo administration has lost all sense of decency and morality. Despite calls for the abolition of the Presidential Commission on Good Government for trucking with Imelda Marcos, the Palace even has the gall to say that the first commission under former senator Jovito Salonga accomplished nothing. Well, who brought the more than 500 cases against the Marcoses that have led to the recovery of Ferdinand Marcos’s $600 million loot from Switzerland? The late, upright Haydee Yorac had laid down the policy of nonnegotiation with the Marcoses and their cronies, which she felt was the reason why the administration pushed her out of the PCGG. Camilo Sabio’s commission denies it has authorization from the Palace to strike a deal with Imelda Marcos, but Michael Defensor’s staunch defense of the compromise talks is nothing short of confirmation and proof of the moral bankruptcy of this administration.
By Guiller de Guzman and Nati Nuguid
6. Deposit on Jail Time
Ousted president Joseph Estrada may have irreparably damaged his defense by admitting in court that he signed bank documents using an alias. While there is no law in the Philippines prohibiting the use of fictitious names for bank accounts, the Jose Velarde account is the alleged depository of payoffs from gambling lords, illegal commissions and kickbacks from taxes paid to him during the first three years of his failed presidency. His admission of signing the name “Jose Velarde” on an authorization for a P500 million loan confirms the existence of the bank account, the strongest evidence of the prosecution against Estrada.
By Guiller de Guzman and Nati Nuguid