July 1, 2006 Issue
Cover: Kate Bosworth plays Lois Lane in Superman Returns
Instead of halting the killing of leftists, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declares a war to the finish with the communists by announcing P1 billion in new spending for the military and the police to wipe out the communist insurgency in two years. Her government is also bringing more than 860 charges all over the country and filing criminal charges in the Netherlands against the founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines, Jose Maria Sison, in an apparent attempt to deflect blame from itself for the killing of more than 220 leftist leaders since she took office in 2001. The military has originally set a 10-year timetable for defeating the communist insurgency, but Mrs. Arroyo, needing to give the nation a reason to rally around her instead of kick her out of office, has ordered the deadline cut to two years, well ahead of the end of her term in 2010. She gives as reason for the all-out war the insurgency’s hindering of economic development in the countryside, although official corruption and political patronage in the local governments are behind economic disasters in the provinces, resulting in the worsening of poverty and driving rural folks to the side of the communist insurgents. She announces P75 billion for investments and development projects in rebel-infested areas of Luzon and gives the protection of these projects as a major reason for the war against the communists. What is Mrs. Arroyo counting on? No government previous to hers, not even the government of President Corazon Aquino, which honestly tried to deal with rural poverty, managed to dent the communist insurgency. It is not possible that Mrs. Arroyo does not know that the communist rebels will not stop fighting until they win and become the country’s rulers—that is the objective of any communist insurgency—and it is not possible that she honestly believes her government can set a record by defeating the rebels. It is more likely that she is trying to project her government as strong, determined, and deserves support from the people. She is wrong. The opposition is taking the case of the killings of leftists to the United Nations and with this, her administration will be drawing even more international attention for its being a violator of human rights. The war against the insurgents will certainly bring a lot of collateral damage, with that, increasing public anger. By choosing war instead of pressing the peace negotiations, Mrs. Arroyo may be hastening the demise of her own rule.
By Ricky S. Torre
2. Take 2
The minority in the House of Representatives brings a new complaint for impeachment against President Arroyo next Monday, continuing its attempt to legally remove from power the leader whose legitimacy has become even more suspect with her prohibition of official testimony in congressional investigations without her permission and with her heavy-handed tactics in dealing with public calls for her resignation. Struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, together with a proclamation of national emergency in February that quickly turned out to be just a strategy to crush opposition to her rule, these policies have given the House minority additional evidence of violations of the Constitution against Mrs. Arroyo. Add to these testimonial and documentary evidence coming from the Senate defense committee’s investigation into the Arroyo tapes scandal and the minority has a stronger case against Mrs. Arroyo this time. But will the complaint hold this time? If 2007 were not an election year, the complaint would be dead outright. The government is operating on the reenacted 2005 budget, giving Mrs. Arroyo a free hand in juggling funds—she can simply raise her congressional allies’ share of the pork barrel by P30 million each to restore it to the original P70 and she’s out of danger. But 2007 is an election year. With about a half of the House up for reelection, Mrs. Arroyo’s allies will have to listen to their constituents’ demands for her ouster. Then again, they don’t have to. The administration’s political operators can handle the election question as ably as they did in 2004.
By Guiller de Guzman, Wendell Vigilia and Butch Serrano
3. Don’t Be So Sure
With the Senate leadership changing hands when the third regular session opens on July 24 comes the question: Is this the total end of congressional independence under the rule of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo? Malacañang and the administration-dominated House of Representatives are looking forward to the subjugation of the Senate even with the incoming Senate president’s assurance of maintaining the chamber’s independence. Sen. Manuel Villar, the incoming Senate president, remains an ally of Mrs. Arroyo and that seems to be the basis of the Palace’s and the House’ optimism. But Sen. Franklin Drilon, the departing Senate president, is moving to the opposition’s side and he is bringing with him Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan and Sen. Juan Flavier, tilting the balance of power in the chamber to the opposition’s side. If Villar plays the administration’s game, he will find it hard to lead and deliver.
By Guiller de Guzman and Butch Serrano
4. Nearing Confrontation
The Arroyo administration, through its surrogate Sigaw ng Bayan, is preparing to ask the Commission on Elections to validate 9 million signatures it has gathered in the campaign to force the amendment of the Constitution by Congress. The surrogate is not paying attention to former president Fidel Ramos’s advice to go to the Supreme Court first for a ruling on the validity of the people’s initiative, confident that in the event of a challenge, the administration will prevail. But the opposition is just waiting for the administration to take the signatures to the Comelec: the moment the poll body touches the signatures, the opposition goes to the Supreme Court.
By Guiller de Guzman and Wendell Vigilia
5. Is There a Price for Human Life?
How much is human life? In the absence of a law that allows compensation for the families of convicts wrongly executed, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales says the family of Leo Echegaray, erroneously executed for rape in February 1999, according to Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, can go to the Board of Claims and it can receive P20,000. Shocking, isn’t it?
(This is supposed to be Nati Nuguid’s assignment. Unfortunately, she died on Monday. Guiller de Guzman takes over.)
6. We’re Vulnerable
The volcanic and seismic activity in the Pacific Ring of Fire is worrying scientists in the Philippines. They say that the restiveness of Mount Merapi on Indonesia’s Java island has no connection to the restiveness of Mount Bulusan in Sorsogon province here, but what worries them is not really the eruption of a volcano but the occurrence of an earthquake with magnitude great enough to generate a tsunami. The devastation from a tsunami, especially in the Manila Fault Line that runs from the Visayas to Manila Bay, would be much greater than the destruction from an eruption of Mount Bulusan. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology has been warning about such a catastrophe even before the December 26, 2004 tsunami that killed more than 300,000 people in 12 countries on the Indian Ocean Rim, but nobody seems to have been listening. Neithern the national government nor any local government has drawn up plans for safety and reconstruction.
By Ramiro C. Alvarez