“Armed rebellion,” said National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales over the weekend, “is no longer acceptable as a means of achieving political change.”

Like most of his statements, which have not gained him a reputation for credibility, this one is as puzzling. Gonzales made it to the media in response to questions on why a warrant of arrest has been issued against Rep. Satur Ocampo. He also said Ocampo’s arrest is part of the government offensive against communist rebels, and that the Arroyo regime is seeking Ocampo’s arrest for his “past offenses.”

The executive department of which Gonzales is a part is fond of citing the principle of separation of powers. For example, it used that principle to justify Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s issuance of Executive Order 464, which barred executive department officials from appearing in Senate hearings without her permission.

The warrant of arrest against Ocampo was issued by a Leyte judge–a member of the judiciary. But here was Gonzales, in effect admitting that it was, as widely suspected, and as those who reacted to the issuance of the warrant of arrest assumed, also–perhaps even primarily– Malacanang’s doing.

But by further implication, and even more seriously, Gonzales was also saying that Malacanang can resurrect or fashion any old charge via the handiest compliant judge available. It can also cause the issuance of arrest warrants not necessarily because there is evidence that the person being ordered arrested has committed a crime, but in furtherance of state policy. Not only does that undermine judicial independence; it also erodes further whatever faith in the judiciary Filipinos may still harbor–but never mind, the regime doesn’t care.

But Gonzales also implied that there was a time when armed rebellion was “acceptable as a means of achieving political change”–whereas it has never been. If Gonzales was referring to EDSAs 1 and 2, those were not, by common agreement, armed, if rebellions they indeed were.

If the news reports are to be believed, Gonzales also said that the Arroyo regime is seeking the arrest of Ocampo for his “past offenses.” The offense Ocampo is accused of is multiple murder, which supposedly happened in 1984, or some two decades ago, when Ocampo, as the records of the Armed Forces of the Philippines should show, was in a Marcos military prison.

Gonzales said on another occasion that Ocampo’s being in prison did not necessarily prevent Ocampo from directing the murders. That may indeed be true, but as a supposition of mere possibility, can’t substitute for evidence. For “evidence,” the government has the statement of a witness who claims he saw Ocampo in Leyte in 1984 ordering the killings. That “evidence” further undermines the case against Ocampo, since he was then in detention in one of Ferdinand Marcos’ detention facilities.

But leave it to the Arroyo regime and Gonzales to make the impossible possible. What the effort to arrest Ocampo amounts to is persecution. It is impossible to so persecute someone like Ocampo unless the Arroyo regime has abandoned the policy of attracting into the legal struggle those who have risen, or are in rebellion against the government. That policy began in earnest during the presidency of Fidel Ramos. Gonzales insists, however, that the regime can go after Ocampo and God knows who else is available, while at the same time continuing the same policy.

It is equally impossible to claim adherence to the same policy while the regime aggressively sponsored via its various surrogates in Congress a so-called “anti-terrorism” law that in effect revives Republic Act 1700, or the anti-subversion law. But the regime insists that the new law notwithstanding, the invitation to rebels and former rebels to “join the mainstream” still stands.

RA 1700 was repealed by Congress in 1994 precisely to allow leftists space to participate in electoral and parliamentary politics. The repeal was a necessary partner to the party-list act, which allows marginalized groups representation in a Congress dominated by dynastic interests.

But as Undersecretary of Defense Ricardo Blancaflor said only last week, the implementation of the “anti-terrorism” bill could lead to the illegalization of the Communist Party and other groups–which was exactly what RA 1700 did in the 1950s.

Satur Ocampo is the most widely known representative of the legal left groups, particularly of Bayan Muna, which have opted to participate in the parliamentary process. According to the research organization Social Weather Stations, Bayan Muna has the support of 17 percent of the electorate, thus entitling it to the maximum three representatives in Congress. A close second to Bayan Muna are its allies Anakpawis, which 9.4 percent of the electorate say they’ll vote for, and Gabriela, 8.1 percent.

Since a two percent vote entitles a party-list group to one representative in the lower house of Congress, these numbers mean that Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Gabriela could end up with a total of nine representatives in the lower house.

What has this got to do with anything? Norberto Gonzales is running for Congress himself, after the repeated debacles his own party-list group has suffered in the polls. It is impossible–as well as totally graceless– for someone with such an interest to be, in effect, campaigning against a rival and justifying his persecution without inviting the suspicion that he and the regime he serves are undermining the spirit and letter of the party-list act.

But Gonzales nevertheless insists that the invitation for left groups to participate in parliamentary politics remains open. Like most things that are occurring in the country of our perdition during the Arroyo watch, this is the impossible claim of an impossible regime.

(Business Mirror)


Luis V. Teodoro

Prof. Luis V. Teodoro is a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, where he used to teach journalism. He writes political commentary for BusinessWorld.

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