No free speech for you!

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Most people know how hostile the police are to free expression, but are probably not aware that the police have no right to free speech–or so the alleged President of the Philippines says.

Addressing the graduating class of the Philippine National Police Academy last Wednesday, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo claimed that there’s not only a Supreme Court ruling, but even a series of decisions that say that “if you have a right to hold guns, you surrender your right to free speech.” Continue reading

Decisions, decisions, decisions

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Despite Palace denials, it’s more than obvious that the purpose of Executive Order 511 is to centralize in Malacanang control over all government advertising in the mass media so only “friendly” media may benefit from it.

EO 511 consolidates the advertising budgets of all government agencies under one Malacanang body called the Communication Group. What seems to have immediately provoked its issuance was the Land Bank’s having advertised in the anniversary lampoon issue of the Daily Tribune. Continue reading

Law and order

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Senator Edgardo J. Angara has revived a proposal that’s been made before, and that’s to hold a snap election for the presidency and vice presidency. In the senator’s version, however, a joint Congressional resolution would shorten the six-year terms of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Noli de Castro and at the same time reform the Commission on Elections (Comelec) through constitutional amendments. Once those amendments—and only those amendments–are thus approved, the elections would take place under a caretaker government.

The proposal is an attempt to resolve the present political crisis, which, rather than winding down, is actually intensifying by the day. It would also provide reasonable assurance that the snap election that would follow would be honest and fair by shielding it from the influence of the incumbents and reconstituting the hopelessly damaged Comelec. Continue reading

Defending Democracy

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It was good to be reminded, and by no less than Navy Chief Vice Admiral Mateo Mayuga, that the Philippine military has been defending democracy all this time.

The admiral made a statement to this effect after a hearing on the Defense Department budget at the House of Representatives last week. The Philippine military, said Mayuga, carries arms to defend the country’s “democratic way of life,” but its officers and soldiers may not join such political activities as anti-Arroyo rallies. Continue reading

Hostage or not, does it matter?

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Senator Joker Arroyo claims that it is now the military that’s “calling the shots” in this country and that Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is its hostage.

The most recent statements of military spokesmen, especially those of a Colonel Tristan Kison, indeed suggest that the military leadership believes it now has the mandate and the power to decide the fate of the nation. But Senator Arroyo could still be mistaken, and Mrs. Arroyo still in firm command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. But does it really matter who’s in command of whom? Continue reading

Indifference

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Senator Joker Arroyo is right. If there is anything about which everyone can agree when it comes to the present crisis of Philippine democracy, it is on the indifference of most Filipinos, particularly those we might safely describe as “middle class.”

Senator Arroyo observed the other day that the government is “committing one violation of the Constitution after another” by dispersing demonstrations and rallies, intimidating the media, and arresting people without warrants. Continue reading

No reason in this madness

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Although media repression is a close contender, what’s happening to the six party-list representatives demonstrates, more than any other event in the last two weeks, how quickly the democratic space has contracted, and how fragile indeed is Philippine democracy. But it is also likely to fuel further crisis.

Five party-list members of the House of Representatives are trapped in the House, unable to leave its premises because of the threat that they will be arrested. The offenses they’re accused of committing include acts of resistance to the martial law government of Ferdinand Marcos. Continue reading

Other voices

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Secretary of Justice Raul Gonzalez is correct. Despite the lifting of Proclamation 1017 last March 3, the laws on sedition, inciting to sedition and libel remain in place. Gonzalez was answering questions on why the government was still monitoring the media, particularly seven print and broadcast journalists, for possible violation of Article 142–inciting to sedition–of the Revised Penal Code.

But while, as Gonzalez said, those laws remain in place, it is decision and policy makers who interpret them and other laws that have a bearing on free expression. Such laws may be interpreted according to their spirit or their letter, or liberally or restrictively. Continue reading

Unity at last

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The Arroyo regime’s wish for unity, unity and unity–a tune it’s been playing since the “Hello Garci” scandal blew up in its face last year–is being realized at last. But most Filipinos are not uniting behind the regime. They’re uniting against it in opposing the systematic assault on civil liberties that’s taken cover behind Proclamation 1017

For example, practically the entire studentry, faculty and non-teaching staff of the University of the Philippines Diliman walked out of their classes and offices in the afternoon of February 28th in a demonstration of unity that hasn’t been seen in UP Diliman for years. Continue reading