October 21, 2005

Turmoil and repression

With each passing day we wake up to find the Arroyo regime resorting to more repressive measures as its attempts to deceive and intimidate fail to stifle the public’s demand for truth and justice.

Malacañang’s invention, the so-called “calibrated preemptive response” or CPR, has been met with resistance and even defiance by demonstrations of all political hues, sizes and shapes. Attempts by Mrs. Arroyo’s men and her paid hacks in media to stereotype protesters as “destabilizers”, power grabbers or just plain troublemakers have not been successful given the broad array of people from all walks of life marching on the streets leading to historic Mendiola Bridge. On the other hand, government handling of such demonstrations have proven itself anything but “calibrated”. Bungled, is more like it.

Deliberately, the authorities have misrepresented BP 880, a martial law edict issued by then Dictator Marcos, as a law that says “no permit, no rally” when the 1987 Philippine Constitution says categorically: “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech and expression or the people’s right to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.” (Section 4, Article III)

Without a doubt, it is government’s sacred duty to uphold and protect such freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights and universally recognized in democratic societies. On the contrary, the Arroyo regime routinely resorts to violent dispersals as a means to prevent citizens from exercising their rights and freedoms and calls this repressive policy as “the rule of law”. Government cites the need to manage traffic, prevent the disruption of the everyday humdrum of city life and even invokes the rights of an amorphous “silent majority” as basis for its illegal, abusive and tyrannical use of its police powers.

Manila City Mayor Lito Atienza has taken the CPR a step further. He has announced that henceforth no permits to demonstrate will be granted for rallies at Mendiola even as he declared that protesters are free to go instead to several “freedom parks” such as Plaza Miranda, Liwasang Bonifacio and Rizal Park. Mr. Atienza claims that government merely wants to prevent another Mendiola massacre similar to what happened during President Corazon Aquino’s administration when peasant demonstrators and their supporters were gunned down by government forces at the foot of Mendiola Bridge.

Mr. Atienza speaks with forked tongue; in plain language, what he is saying is a blatant lie. I should know because I, together with other victims of the violent dispersal of a protest rally at Plaza Miranda in July 2004, filed a criminal case against the Western Police District (WPD) for precisely violating our rights to freely assemble and speak. The rally had been called to demand the withdrawal of Philippine troops from Iraq in order to obtain the freedom of overseas Filipino worker, Angelo de la Cruz, and to distance ourselves from the completely unjustified US invasion of and war against Iraq.

The rallyists had repeatedly called the attention of the police ground commander, Col. Sapitula, that Plaza Miranda is a freedom park and therefore no permit is required, even under BP 880. But Col. Sapitula ignored our pleas and ordered his men to attack us resulting in serious injuries inflicted by the “law enforcers” on the rallyists. I, myself, obtained a six-inch head wound from a policeman’s truncheon while trying to negotiate for a peaceful solution to the impasse.

Subsequently, in the reply affidavits of WPD head, General Bulaong and other police officials charged, they stated under oath that their inquiries at the Manila City Hall revealed that Plaza Miranda had not been declared a “freedom park”. In fact, city officials had never issued an ordinance declaring any place in the city as a “freedom park” in a clear abdication of their duty to do so under BP 880.

Mayor Atienza is caught in an arbitrary and ill-motivated exercise of his ministerial authority to issue rally permits. He would conjure “freedom parks” in order to suit the Arroyo regime’s need to appear willing to accommodate protest demonstrations when in truth it is hell bent on making the area around the Presidential Palace off limits to protest actions and thus preempt any massing of huge numbers of anti-government demonstrators there.

Now the government’s entire propaganda machinery including its tentacles in the commercial mass media are engaged in nothing less than a vicious and dangerous psywar campaign. A major component is state terror. The CPR and the violent dispersals, the threat of “emergency rule” and media hype about terrorist bomb attacks, the fast-tracking of the Anti-Terrorism Bill, the various legal moves and squid tactics against avowed opponents of the Arroyo administration and the unabated political killings of progressives and militant leaders are all geared to instill fear within the broad anti-Arroyo front and the people as a whole.

Another sustained tack is to paint legitimate protest as “terrorist”, red bait progressive and militant organizations as “communist fronts” and release dubious intelligence reports that the ranks of demonstrators are infiltrated by the New People’s Army and thus lay the ground for an undisguised, frontal attack against the growing movement calling for Mrs. Arroyo’s removal from the presidency.

Will the orchestrated cover-up, lying and use of force by the Arroyo regime work? We think not. The economic, political and moral grounds for the national crisis we are facing and upon which the Arroyo regime faces being booted out of power exist for real and are not creations of the political opposition nor the forces of the Left. The more the Arroyo regime resorts to deception and naked force to cover up its sins and cling to power, the more it betrays its guilt and lack of legitimacy to govern.

The point is this: who is the culprit behind all the turmoil in the streets? Is it the demonstrators and the various forces and personalities calling for the resignation or ouster of Mrs. Arroyo from power? Or is it Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself and her discredited and reviled anti-people regime that has been caught red-handed in top-level poll fraud, various corruption scandals and the treasonous sell-out of national interest as exemplified by the questioned Venable lobby contract.

The people’s movement calling for truth, justice and accountability on the part of a regime totally bereft of credibility and legitimacy has not been cowed and continues to advance. Mrs. Arroyo and her ilk completely and fatally underestimate the capacity of the people to discern truth from lies and to act according to what is right and just.

21-22 Oct. 2005


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