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.

Mrs. Arroyo and Mr. De Castro could run again if they want, and if they won in an election untainted by fraud and conducted fairly, the public would not have any reason to doubt the results the way it doubts those of the 2004 elections.

While Mr. de Castro would be a casualty—some say an innocent casualty—of the Angara proposal, if he ran again he could probably still get the votes to get him back into the vice presidency or even put him in the presidency. Mrs. Arroyo, on the other hand, is unlikely to win any fair and honest election. Sixty-five percent of the entire Filipino nation in fact want her out of Malacanang, which means that there would be only the smallest possibility that she can once more inflict her brand of leadership, not to mention her spouse, cronies and allies, on this unfortunate country if a snap election were held in the immediate future.

The unlikelihood of Mrs. Arroyo’s winning a fair and honest election is among the reasons why the Angara proposal is not likely to prosper—and the reason why, immediately after he made the suggestion, Malacanang immediately struck it down for having “no basis in law.” The Palace struck down a proposal for a snap election, though without the mechanism that’s in Senator Angara’s version, that Senator Aquilino Pimentel made in 2005 as a way out of the political crisis. It had exactly the same arguments then.

If you listened to the Arroyo regime’s spokespersons and even to Mrs. Arroyo herself, you would get the impression that nothing is more sacred to them than the law. You hear the word drop often from the mouths of Mrs. Arroyo herself, who’s lately taken to threatening her perceived enemies and practically everyone else with “the full force of the law”; of Secretary of Justice Raul Gonzalez, who can see three crimes in the simple act of crossing a street faster than anyone can say “Revised Penal Code,” but has terrible difficulties prosecuting gang rapists; and even among certain elements of the Armed Forces who specialize in the assassination of unarmed lawyers, students, priests, and even local officials.

Thus the Palace response to Senator Angara—and incidentally, the usual Palace media hacks’ as well.

What’s truly repulsive about this frequent reference to the law is that the same people who so eagerly cite it are the very same persons who’re busy doing things that either have no basis in law either, and are even blatantly unconstitutional.

The Arroyo regime, for example, is harassing and intimidating the legitimate media despite the absence of any law that permits it to raid media establishments, take programs off the air, or threaten broadcast companies with the withdrawal of their franchises. The opposite in fact obtains: not only is there a Constitutional provision protecting press freedom and free expression, Philippine jurisprudence is also crammed with Supreme Court decisions declaring the curtailment of free expression and press freedom unconstitutional and unlawful.

In the same manner are arrests without warrants conditioned on the premise that a crime is being or has just been committed, or that the police has come upon a fugitive from justice. The regime has nevertheless arrested or threatened to arrest people without warrants even when these conditions do not exist, in the same manner that despite the Constitutional protection accorded free expression and freedom of assembly, it has suppressed and continues to suppress demonstrations and rallies.

And then there was that “Rogues’ Gallery” plan of the so-called Department of Justice. It seems that in replication of her practice of parading crime suspects before the media, Mrs. Arroyo had this idea of publishing the photographs of the people, led by former Senator Gregorio Honasan, accused of planning a coup against her. The only problem with this plan was that it would have violated several laws including the Constitutional presumption of innocence.

Before lifting martial law in 1981, Ferdinand Marcos at least passed a number of unjust laws under the authority of which he could continue to suppress free expression and freedom of assembly. The truly odd thing is that in the present case there are no laws at all that would justify what is happening. The same laws and the same Constitution are in place. Apparently, however, these are nothing but words on paper for the regime.

The irony about regimes focused on law and order is that they’re usually the first ones to violate the law and to foment disorder, just as the most undemocratic regimes insist that what they’re doing is in the service of democracy. Assuming for the sake of argument that the Angara proposal has no basis in law, that shouldn’t be a hindrance to its implementation, would it? After all, just about everything else that’s currently being implemented as policy by the Arroyo regime in its desperate effort to preserve itself at everyone else’s expense has no basis in law either.

(Business Mirror)

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