Dangerous Times

When that aborted coup last Friday happened – along with the reaction of the Palace to it – I was very little, if any, perturbed. I even had a bit of stress from my own father because he was so worried and wanted me back at the house. I guess his statements – if I didn’t want to listen, that was my problem, or something like that – rankled me because of his four children I was the one who was part of one revolution and helped stop another. I’ve seen my share of conflict and recieved training to handle it and myself. I wanted to tell him that, if I wasn’t worried about a few tanks then he shouldn’t.

Yet, with tonight’s news of the takeover of the Daily Tribune, my anxiety over the state of emergency has heightened.

Part of me understands the action: the Daily Tribune has done nothing but castigate the Arroyo administration since 2001. The Tribune, after all, is an Erap paper, in much the same way Malaya is an Angara or Lacson paper. I don’t know to whom Abante belongs to. These three were supposedly some of the first… “institutional” casualties of Proclamation 1017. Oh, wait, I’m wrong there: uber-pundit Randy David was picked off during the EDSA rally last Friday, along with lawyer Argee Guevara. Rhealeth told me that former UP President Francisco Nemenzo has also been picked up, but that guy also kind of had it coming, being one of the most vocal of critics calling for Gloria’s overthrow.

Of all the classes I had with journalism institution Doreen Fernandez, one has remained etched in memory. We had her as our prof during soph year Intro to Journ. We weren’t freshies anymore, wide-eyed and in awe of our status as Atenean college students, but I think we still had a bit of the naivete of our age. Doreen’s class would show us a little bit more of the world we were going to confront and hopefully change. That day, she posed us a question: why did we think some newspapers still operate eventhough they are losing money for their publishers? No answers from the class, so she answered her own question for us: because it gives one power. Having one’s own media gives one the power of a Gatekeeper of Information, the ability to influence the thinking of large segments of the population. And in a society that trusts media more than government, that can be quite the power indeed.

As a longtime media operator, and for a major political party no less, this lesson given to naive little soph me is something I can fully appreciate. I’ve seen it in action. In fact, it’s one of the beginning exercises I give my trainees in KALIPI’s media directorate, that of identifying which media is with which faction or interest group. There is no objective media. The first rule of media ops brings home the point: do not piss off media. If media were objective, they wouldn’t mind being dissed by media ops like me if they can get the Truth, whatever the hell that is in a post-July 8 Philippines.

But, if the press is such a pain and does take sides in a political contest, is that any reason to take such radical, punitive action against a segment of it?

I’m looking at the 1987 Consti right now (thank you, Chan Robles). First, let’s look at the provision that Gloria invoked:


Section 18. The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the
Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion. In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law. Within forty-eight hours from the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, the President shall submit a report in person or in writing to the Congress. The Congress, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its Members in regular or special session, may revoke such proclamation or suspension, which revocation shall not be set aside by the President. Upon the initiative of the President, the Congress may, in the same manner, extend such proclamation or suspension for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.

The Congress, if not in session, shall, within twenty-four hours following such proclamation or suspension, convene in accordance with its rules without need of a call.

The Supreme Court may review, in an appropriate proceeding filed by any citizen, the sufficiency of the factual basis of the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or the extension thereof, and must promulgate its decision thereon within thirty days from its filing.

A state of martial law does not suspend the operation of the Constitution, nor supplant the functioning of the civil courts or legislative assemblies, nor authorize the conferment of jurisdiction on military courts and agencies over civilians where civil courts are able to function, nor automatically suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

The suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall apply only to persons judicially charged for rebellion or offenses inherent in, or directly connected with, invasion.

During the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, any person thus arrested or detained shall be judicially charged within three days, otherwise he shall be released.

Gloria quoted the first sentence of Section 18, Article 7 as justification for Proc. 1017, and is presumably the operating “law” for any and all actions being taken in accordance with the State of Emergency. But as one person pointed out before, and from what I can see up there, (a) State of Emergency was never mentioned in Sec. 18, Article 7, and (b) paragraph four is very, very, clear about what remains “in operation” and not.

This is because of certain provisions that come before Article 7, some of the most important provisions of the ’87 Consti:

Section 1. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.

Section 4. No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.

Section 12. (1) Any person under investigation for the commission of an offense shall have the right to be informed of his right to remain silent and to have competent and independent counsel preferably of his own choice. If the person cannot afford the services of counsel, he must be provided with one. These rights cannot be waived except in writing and in the presence of counsel.

(2) No torture, force, violence, threat, intimidation, or any other means which vitiate the free will shall be used against him. Secret detention places, solitary, incommunicado, or other similar forms of detention are prohibited.

(3) Any confession or admission obtained in violation of this or Section 17 hereof shall be inadmissible in evidence against him.

(4) The law shall provide for penal and civil sanctions for violations of this section as well as compensation to the rehabilitation of victims of torture or similar practices, and their families.

Section 13. All persons, except those charged with offenses punishable by reclusion perpetua when evidence of guilt is strong, shall, before conviction, be bailable by sufficient sureties, or be released on recognizance as may be provided by law. The right to bail shall not be impaired even when the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is suspended. Excessive bail shall not be required.

Section 14. (1) No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law.

(2) In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, and shall enjoy the right to be heard by himself and counsel, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him, to have a speedy, impartial, and public trial, to meet the witnesses face to face, and to have compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence in his behalf. However, after arraignment, trial may proceed notwithstanding the absence of the accused: Provided, that he has been duly notified and his failure to appear is unjustifiable.

Section 15. The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended except in cases of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it.

Section 16. All persons shall have the right to a speedy disposition of their cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial, or administrative bodies.

Section 17. No person shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.

Section 18. (1) No person shall be detained solely by reason of his political beliefs and aspirations.

Section 19. (2) The employment of physical, psychological, or degrading punishment against any prisoner or detainee or the use of substandard or inadequate penal facilities under subhuman conditions shall be dealt with by law.

Those provisions are from Article III, more commonly called the Bill of Rights. And if Gloria wants to use the Consti as justification for Proc. 1017, then she’d better read it again. Because even with Proc. 1017, she can’t have opposition papers closed, or highly critical media organizations like, say, ANC, because Sec. 4, Article III says so. And she can’t have… “inconvenient” people like Nemenzo and Randy David, nor Anakpawis congressman Crispin Beltran picked up because so many Sections in Article III says so. She can’t do what she wants because the very same Sec. 18, Article VII that she quotes says so. And it holds even if she had the gall to declare Martial Law.

I read somewhere – I think it was a column in the PDI about freedom of the press – that any opinion or statement that elicits strong reactions (or something like that) is precisely what the right to freedom of the press and speech protects. Because it is precisely strong words that create debates that should be the basis of a functioning democracy. A true, strong and vibrant democracy must not be scared of high-handed criticism; in fact it should encourage it. Because the essence of a democracy is about people having their own opinion and not being afraid of it being heard, especially if it concerns the powers-that-be. Yes, there is a fine line between freedom of speech and sedition but wouldn’t it be better to err on the side of democracy?

Gloria’s people should have seen from last year that what we have now is a people that thinks. Otherwise, the little lady would’ve been out since, say, July 8. But because the Filipino people refuse to be so easily hoodwinked to any faction, we all still sit and wait for more proof to come out.

But what is going to happen now, that Gloria is appearing like some dictator in all but name with her recent actions?

This a very, very dangerous time. People probably would have understood some of the measures taken to secure the Republic last Friday. Some probably didn’t do more than shrug when they heard the President read Proc. 1017. But a lot of people will look with growing alarm at her recent actions. And coming as it is during the celebration of the First People Power… Gloria and her people couldn’t have chosen a worst time to act the dictator.

Dangerous times indeed. Marcos was able to put the country under Martial Law because he moved fast, and the people initially thought it was for the best. I think the Filipino is wiser now, despite all those surveys that say people wouldn’t mind another dictatorship if it’d clean everything up. And Gloria’s people have not moved with the speed and efficiency that Marcos did.

How absurd. As Tin said in a text a while ago, she’s just comitting political suicide.

We’ll see. The Filipino people are very patient and forgiving, but a lot of dictators and corrupt leaders found out the hard way not to tempt fate when it comes to trampling the Filipino’s rights and sense of right and wrong.

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