Stopping the killings

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US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney says the United States is concerned over the ongoing killing of journalists and activists, and other human rights violations in the Philippines.

It should be. The Philippines is a “major Non-NATO ally” of the US, according to that great genius, George W. Bush. But that icon of world leadership understated the extent of the current government’s loyalty to the US– as well as the Philippines’ place, if not in the US’ heart, at least in its global strategy. Continue reading

In another country

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Journalist Jose Torres is absolutely correct. Raul Gonzalez, secretary of what’s laughingly called the department of justice, doesn’t have the faintest idea about press freedom. He doesn’t know what it is, he wouldn’t recognize it even if he fell face-first on it, and he wouldn’t care for it even if he did understand it.

Torres, Secretary General of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, was reacting to Gonzalez’ declaration that he was amenable to arming media people in the wake of the unremitting murder of journalists during the putrid reign of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Continue reading

Time warp

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Major General Jovito Palparan’s suggestion that an anti-subversion act similar to RA 1700 should be passed has a strange ring to it, this being the 21st century. But I suppose no one should be surprised. Palparan represents a view in the military on how to deal with rebellion and other forms of social unrest that–no matter how caught in a time warp somewhere in the 1950s it may be–has been current in the Arroyo administration since 2001.

Palparan’s favored approach is the purely military one that has dominated much of Philippine military thinking since the early 20th century. Under US direction, the antecedents of today’s AFP then continued the “kill them all, sort them out later” policy of the US occupation forces. Among other characteristics, this approach looks at the Bill of Rights as a hindrance because it gives dissenters, specially leftists, the legal right to express themselves. Continue reading

A “constitutional” coup

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Assuming dictatorial powers in 1972 by placing the country under martial law, Ferdinand Marcos launched what amounted to a coup d’etat against the liberal democratic government of which he himself was President.

One of that government’s claims to democracy were the more or less free—though often attended by violence and fraud– elections it regularly held. Marcos himself had been the beneficiary of the electoral system, having risen from congressman to senator to President of the Republic, to which post he was (most probably) elected twice. But Marcos demolished the liberal democratic regime in 1972 by using its own basic law against it. While the 1935 Constitution had a Bill of Rights (Section 1 of Article III) it also had subsection 2, Section 10 of Article VII, which describes the qualifications and powers of the President. Continue reading

Wink, wink

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What are the chances of a thorough police investigation into the killing of political activists? It would depend on how the Arroyo regime defines, and how the police interprets, “thorough,” certain words–practically the entire English language, in fact–having been so debased by every Philippine government since Marcos they’ve lost their original meaning.

By universal agreement among English-language users and dictionary makers, “thorough” means “systematic,” “complete,” and “detailed.” These meanings imply that any “thorough” investigation would use methodical, logical, rational, even scientific means to get at the truth. Continue reading

The regime personified

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The lawyers’ group Counsel for the Defense of Liberties (CODAL) is urging Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to retire Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez. But I’m afraid it might as well ask for the moon–or the resignation of Mrs. Arroyo herself.

Twenty-nine lawyers including two judges convened Codal last year in response to their perception, amply validated since then by Proclamation 1017 and its implementation, that the regime has an alarming tendency to savage civil liberties. In addition to lawyers, Codal now includes among its members law students from the Ateneo de Manila University, the University of Santo Tomas, Arellano University, San Beda College, and the University of the Philippines. Continue reading

Above the law

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We have the word of Raul Gonzalez–for whatever that’s worth– that the five party- list representatives who have been in the “protective custody” of the House for over two months may leave the premises without being arrested. But Gonzalez says that’s only for the moment, and that the Department of (in)Justice may have them arrested anyway once he decides to take “legal action” against them.

Gonzalez and the regime he serves have a problem. They’re eager to kill the spirit and practice of the party-list system that allows marginalized sectors representation in the elite-controlled House of Representatives, and to restore total dynastic dominance in the House. But a Makati court has refused to include the five–Satur Ocampo, Teodoro Casino and Joel Virador of Bayan Muna; Liza Maza of Gabriela; and Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis–in an amended rebellion charge originally filed against Congressman Crispin Beltran of Anakpawis and Army first lieutenant Lawrence San Juan. Continue reading

Malice

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Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo doesn’t understand or appreciate the role of press freedom in Philippine society, the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists said on May 3rd, World Press Freedom Day. This could imply that plain ignorance is the reason for the Arroyo regime’s assault on press freedom and its refusal to do much of anything to punish the killers of journalists. In that case the only thing we have to do is educate it in the fine points of media appreciation.

But is ignorance its only offense? And is it even educable? Mrs. Arroyo and her Bill of Rights wrecking crew may not appreciate press freedom, if by “appreciation” we mean the state of mind that’s grateful for it, and realizes its value. But judging from the acts and statements of Mrs. Arroyo, Mike Defensor, Raul Gonzalez , Norberto Gonzales and her police and military henchmen, they do understand that press freedom is at the heart of democratic governance and society. Continue reading

The coup this time

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This column was being written on Monday, May 1st, amid government threats to re-impose the state of emergency it declared last February 24. If by the time this column sees print a declaration to that effect has been issued, and the Constitution further threatened or even abolished, it would not be in response to any armed threat to the regime, but because it is what it has wanted since February. But it would also mean that the regime is risking not only a military rebellion, but also the displeasure of the United States government.

There is no mistaking the regime’s contempt for democratic rights ever since 2001. But this disdain became even more evident when free expression, freedom of assembly and the free press became an inconvenience in the regime’s efforts to remain in power after the tainted elections of 2004. Continue reading