May 31, 2006


The Commission on Human Rights position on the spate of killings of members and officials of progressive party lists and militant organizations on the Left of the political spectrum is the most sane official pronouncement we have heard so far on the matter.

To wit, Chairman Quisumbing is saying that at the minimum, government should be held responsible for not putting a stop to this epidemic of extrajudicial killings and thereby allowing a climate of impunity to reign.

Since armed agents of the state are prime suspects, the Arroyo government is all the more duty-bound to act swiftly, conduct a thorough, no-nonsense, credible investigation that should produce results in terms of arrests and the successful prosecution of the guilty, both triggermen and masterminds.

What would Malacañang, the chambers of commerce, the socio-civic clubs and even the Catholic Church hierarchy say, if a health epidemic that kills scores, if not hundreds of people, over a short period of time, were allowed by the Department of Health to wreak havoc without it lifting a finger. Why, that would trigger both an official and public outcry.

When the Filipino-Chinese community raises the alarm about kidnappings of its members, more so if they march in the streets the way they did when a promising, young woman executive died at the hands of kidnappers several years back, the authorities scramble to act. Malacañang issues a flurry of strongly-worded directives for law enforcement agencies to produce results within 48 hours or face the ire of no less than the President.

The same thing with high profile cases involving media personalities like the popular actress Nida Blanca. Even if the cases should drag in court, at the very least cases are built up through persistent police investigative work and the dogged pursuit of justice by state prosecutors and aggrieved parties themselves.

Curiously, but not unexpectedly, what has been happening with regard to the alleged political killings is the exact opposite.

First are the official denials that such a spike in the number of cases is true or indicates anything unusual. As far as Malacañang, the police/military generals and hard-core anti-communist commentators in the mass media are concerned there is no pattern to the killings, whether it be the background and circumstances of the victims, the profile and motives of the suspected perpetrators or the modus operandi of the killers.

The statements of the victims’ relatives, friends and co-workers that their chief suspects are “death squads” of the government, either members of the AFP and PNP or their assets are dismissed as biased and unreliable. There is unison in the knee-jerk response of the police and the military that the accusing fingers pointed in their direction are part and parcel of “communist propaganda” and have no merit whatsoever.

Government officials rue the lack of witnesses who can give leads to solving the murder cases and thereafter profess helplessness. Physical evidence is not painstakingly gathered, possible suspects are not tracked down, the crimes are quickly archived if not abandoned because according to investigators, “there are no witnesses”.

In fact witnesses in this country do not come forward because they fear for their lives, having very little trust and confidence in the government’s will, capacity and track record in protecting them and their families. How much more when suspicion is high that the assailants and their bosses are in the very government agencies charged with investigating such crimes.

A case in point are the witnesses in the abduction and murder of the human rights leader of KARAPATAN in Southern Tagalog, Eden Marcellana, together with peasant leader, Ka Eddie Gumanoy in 2003. In fact they themselves were abducted when their fact-finding mission to Mindoro Oriental was waylaid by armed men on a national highway. They survived the ordeal and courageously stood as witnesses, even identifying the right-hand man of then Colonel Jovito Palparan, a master sergeant, as one of the kidnappers but nothing happened. The case is still languishing in the (In)Justice Department. Worse, the witnesses suffer all sorts of harassment and must
rely on their own meager resources to protect themselves. Now that the Arroyo government is no longer able to deny that the rash of political killings are a gruesome fact, they have resorted to a more sinister line that both civilian and military authorities are saying in chorus.

Mrs. Arroyo’s top security people are saying that the killings are being done by the communists themselves since they have a history of bloody purges. They dredge up the anti-infiltration campaign of the Communists Party of the Philippines (CPP) in the early 80s that went terribly awry and victimized many innocent members and supporters of the communist movement and they say this is what is happening again.

What they don’t say is that the CPP has publicly acknowledged, condemned and vowed to make amends to the victims for the excesses and abuses that their attempts to flush out military infiltrators from their ranks had caused. (Something that the military and police high command have never done vis a vis their own terrible human rights records.)

The government continues to shroud in mystery the pronouncements of the CPP relating to this issue including their acknowledgement that such anti-infiltration campaigns had caused more harm to their cause than even the most fearsome government military campaigns. It stands to reason that the CPP/NPA would be extremely careful not to allow a repeat of such a grievous mistake.

Nevertheless, Mrs. Arroyo’s men ­ Executive Secretary Ermita, National Security Adviser Gonzales, Justice Secretary Gonzalez, Police Chief Lomibao and the AFP top brass ­ want us to believe that the most plausible reason for the more than 250 alleged political killings that are continuing to this day is that the members of the CPP/NPA are simply killing each other for reasons that are still to be determined.

At this point It should be obvious that what the Arroyo government is engaged in is another massive cover-up, this time, of official sanction for extrajudicial killings of progressives, activists and their supporters. #

May 12, 2006

Travesty of justice

There is something terribly wrong when the government agency tasked to uphold justice wantonly disregards the rule of law purportedly to prosecute alleged enemies of the state.

Most of us have somehow gotten use to thieves, cheaters, liars and murderers getting away scot-free in this god-forsaken country, especially when they occupy exalted positions in government and society. But sending innocent people to jail on trumped-up charges and without a modicum of due process is a travesty that decent and upright citizens cannot take sitting down.

The Department of Justice grievously violated the right to presumption of innocence and due process of Representative Crispin Ka Bel Beltran when they upheld his illegal arrest on the basis of a 1985 warrant of arrest for a case that had already been dismissed. Realizing their error, the authorities then immediately filed sedition charges against him in a QC trial court.

When Ka Bel was allowed by the QC court to go free on the basis of his parliamentary immunity from minor suits, the DOJ promptly filed yet another case, this time conspiracy to commit rebellion together with 1Lt Lawrence San Juan and several John/Jane Does.

It is on the basis of this charge that Ka Bel now languishes in detention and the so-called Batasan 5, or the 5 party-list representatives who escaped arbitrary arrest and detention by seeking refuge as parliamentarians in the House of Representatives (HOR), were until recently held under virtual arrest inside the HOR premises because of the repeated threats by the DOJ and police to arrest them once they step outside
Congress grounds.

The 6 legislators were able to irrefutably disprove the testimony of a witness claiming to have seen them meeting with Lt San Juan in Batangas on February 20 using official records and video footages showing that they were all in the plenary session of the Congress at that date and time.

Other pieces of evidence against Ka Bel include testimonies of soldiers attesting to their participation in alleged meetings of the Makabayang Kawal Pilipino (MKP). None of these testimonies name or refer to Ka Bel nor the 5 other party list representatives and are therefore irrelevant to their cases.

Subsequently in the Amended Information that included the Batasan 5 and scores of other respondents, government prosecutors attempt to build up a case of conspiracy to commit rebellion on the basis of the fact that the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New Peoples Army, have been existing since the late sixties and their unsubstantiated claim that the accused are all high ranking members of said proscribed organizations.

Without offering a single shred of evidence, the accused were said to be willfully, unlawfully and feloniously compliment(ing) the said ongoing rebellion thru extra-legal means and through different front organizations of the CPP… such as but not limited to party list groups as Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Gabriela Womens Party as well as Bayan, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Gabriela, League of Filipino Students, etc.

The Makati RTC judge who threw out the Amended Information, Judge Jenny Lindt Delorino, pointedly upbraided the DOJ prosecutors for failure to attach the affidavits of the complainant and its witnesses, along with other copies of the evidence. She ruled that this is a fatal defect that warrants the Courts denying admission of the Amended Information.

In a fit of pique as well as in a most deliberate attempt to preempt the issuance of a favorable court ruling on the motion of Ka Bels lawyers that the case against him be dismissed for lack of probable cause, the DOJ has moved for the inhibition of Judge Delorino. The DOJ accuses her of lack of impartiality simply because she refused to dance to the tune of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales and opted to follow the rules of court to protect and uphold the substantive rights of the accused.

Mr. Gonzales taunt that they it would be better for the Batasan 5 to go back to the mountains after they successfully left the HOR premises in assertion of their democratic rights is a malicious attempt to further condemn these progressive legislators as guilty by association with avowedly revolutionary groups. It is also an unwitting admission that the DOJ/PNP/AFP do not have the evidence, the just grounds, and whatever it takes to successfully and judiciously prosecute Ka Bel et al.

If rebellion thrives on or is rooted in social iniquity and injustice, then Mr. Gonzales is pouring gasoline into the fire, what with the illegal and highly irregular manner by which he is prosecuting alleged rebels.

Mr. Gonzales is resorting to the dirtiest of tricks to throw innocent people to jail. He willfully breaks the law including the Constitution itself in order to suppress dissent despite recent Supreme Court ruling on Presidential Proclamation 1017 and its clear and unequivocal warnings against tyranny and dictatorial rule.

We believe Mr. Gonzales when he says he knows his law and due process. The big question is how he has used that knowledge and for what ends. As DOJ Secretary he has used it not to uphold justice but to make a travesty of it.

The evident rush to throw the Batasan 6, mass leaders of peoples organizations and other anti-Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) personalities behind bars is not much of a mystery. It is not difficult to see the direct connection to Malacañang frenzied but failing efforts to preempt the resurgent anti-GMA mass movement and the broad political front, including Congress and the anti-Charter change movement, that is moving to thwart GMAs desperate attempts to hold on to power.#

May 05, 2006

Judicial antidote

By Carol Pagaduan-Araullo

Judicial antidote

The Supreme Court has attempted to straddle the pros and cons of Executive Order 464, the Calibrated Preemptive Response (CPR)/ Public Assembly Law (BP 880) and Proclamation 1017 in its series of decisions, apparently trying to issue a balanced (some say, ambiguous) ruling on each one. Yet the clear conclusion from its series of decisions is that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is unfit to rule.

What everyone, including the SC justices, know for a fact but could only hint at in their most recent decision is that the primary motive for Proclamation 1017 is not the defense of the state but Mrs. Arroyo’s self-preservation.

Just as EO 464 is not about upholding executive privilege against the unwarranted intrusions of Congress but is intended to be part of the grand cover-up for the “Garci tapes”, jueteng[1] and the First Family’s involvement, the Venable contract, the fertilizer scam and the North Rail projects, etc.

For that matter, CPR and the government’s observance in the breach of BP 880’s “maximum tolerance” policy is no less than the suppression of the fundamental freedoms of speech and assembly and not about safeguarding the duly constituted authority against “destabilization” plots left and right.

Mrs. Arroyo and her rah-rah boys, instead of reading the proverbial writing on the wall courtesy of the SC, persists in its arrogant, unrepentant, bull-headed and devious, albeit bungling, ways.

On the occasion of Labor Day, the AFP and PNP uncover another mind-boggling plot (or is it plots) of the perennial bad guys, the CPP/NPA, to use the celebrations by militant workers and progressives from all walks of life in order to overthrow the government and grab power. Mrs. Arroyo’s justice secretary, her spokesman and her national security adviser promptly announce, on cue, the full use of the coercive powers of the state, including the resort to the controversial Proclamation 1017, should the Mayday rallies “turn into an armed threat”.

In a begrudging acknowledgement that the celebration of Labor Day, be it in the form of militant mass actions, cannot be circumscribed much less prevented, the “no permit, no rally” doctrine was de facto shelved as the rallyists marched to Mendiola without any permit. Malacanang was however successful in enforcing its ban on rallies near the Presidential Palace after it had deployed thousands of police and military in full anti-riot and battle gear in the Palace perimeter especially at Mendiola Bridge.

Malacanang has indeed gone to great lengths to prevent the people from rallying at its doorsteps. How convenient the memory lapse of Mrs. Arroyo and her cabal that they should forget how the toppling of the Marcos dictatorship and the ouster of the corrupt Estrada regime could not have taken place without the people massing up at Mendiola apart from at EDSA. (Or perhaps they have merely taken the lessons of history to heart and are scrambling to prevent its repeat?)

Another legal showdown looms, this time on the legality of the “people’s initiative” being steamrollered by DILG Secretary Puno, local government officials and an assortment of pretend non-government entities. The GMA-de Venecia maneuver for the House of Representatives to unilaterally and single-handedly act as a constituent assembly, without the Senate’s cooperation, is also headed for a legal challenge at the Supreme Court.

Once more it will be the Oust GMA movement together with the much broader anti-charter change forces that will play the key and decisive role in frustrating the bogus “people’s initiative” and much ballyhooed Gloria Chacha Express.

The Supreme Court has proven unwilling to step in to stop the Arroyo regime’s unconstitutional acts. Instead it has allowed events to unfold and such unconstitutional acts to bear their illegal fruit until these are resoundingly rejected politically, thereby their patent illegality further exposed.

Now that the Supreme Court has spoken, will Mrs. Arroyo be held legally liable for the unconstitutional acts vis a vis PP 1017; for example, the warrant less arrests, the violent break-up of rallies and the warrant less raid on the Tribune newspaper office?

Consider that the SC ruling rightfully struck down as unconstitutional PP 1017’s grant of authority to Mrs. Arroyo to promulgate decrees (lifted from Marcos’s martial law declaration 1081) and warned versus the regime “testing the outer limits of presidential prerogatives”; in plain words, its dictatorial tendencies.

Will the Supreme Court ruling on PP 1017 prevent another 1017/1081?

It remains to be seen whether the ambivalent SC decisions are potent enough to serve, as the Court claims, antidotes to the abuse of power. Or, like adulterated medicines, merely appear to check the deadly virus of dictatorship while in reality, serving to quietly strengthen it.#

[1] An illegal numbers game spawning graft and corruption all the way up to the highest reaches of government, including the President’s office.

May 02, 2006

Maximum intolerance

Two seemingly contradictory reactions have been elicited by the Supreme Courts latest ruling striking down Malacanang's calibrated preemptive response or CPR while sustaining the constitutionality of the Marcos-era law governing public assemblies or Batas Pambansa 880.

On one hand, applause from the Opposition and other anti-Gloria political forces over the rejection of another tyrannical invention by the Arroyo presidency; on the other, vigorous assertions form the Presidents men of having been vindicated by the ruling on BP 880 and renewed threats to "implement the law" sparing no one.

Let us recall that on September 21, 2005 -- the anniversary of the Dictator Marcos martial law Executive Secretary Ermita announced that henceforth in dealing with anti-government mass actions, the CPR would be enforced in lieu of maximum tolerance as defined in BP 880.

The date for this Malacanang pronouncement was a portent of even worse suppression of civil liberties that was to come. For despite the defeat of the impeachment complaint against Mrs. Arroyo, her camp feared that the regimes political crisis was far from over. They wanted to preempt and crush any residual momentum for People Powerthat lingered and could possibly be given a new push by Senate investigations into allegations of plunder, massive electioneering and wholesale fraud.

The CPR was a Malacanang concoction, meant to strike fear into the hearts of citizens wishing to join protest demonstrations. It was also meant to embolden the police, military and the mayors to ride roughshod over the peoples fundamental rights of free speech and free assembly by restrictively, unilaterally and undemocratically imposing the no permit, no rally rule.

In practice this took the form of city hall giving rally organizers the run-around, making it virtually impossible to get a written permit in time. Since no city in Metro Manila had bothered to comply with BP 880s proviso that freedom parks be designated where no permit is necessary, the police assume that all rallies in public places require a mayors permit.

Thereafter, on the day of the demonstration, the police would ask only one question, Where is your permit to rally? They would not hear of any argument that failure of the mayors office to act on the application for a permit within two days meant that a permit is deemed granted in accordance with law. The burden of proof lies with the demonstrators but of course, the latter wont get the scrap of paper that constitutes a permit that the police would recognize and respect.

Failure to show a written permit was considered enough bases for a ground commanders order to disperse the rally pronto, using truncheons, shields and water cannon. No negotiations take place anymore since none are considered necessary.

A fair-minded person who has had occasion to witness the police violently dispersing rallies and demonstrations would immediately come to the conclusion that the CPR is indeed different from maximum tolerance. Maximum tolerance according to BP 880 means the highest degree of restraint that the military, police and other peacekeeping authorities shall observe during a public assembly or in the dispersal of the same.

Yet belatedly, in the oral arguments before the Supreme Court, the Solicitor General attempted to explain that CPR was no different from the maximum tolerance policy under BP 880. Executive Secretary Ermita clarified in his affidavit that it was the same banana but only declared with more forcefulness to signify that government means business in the face of mayhem and serious threats to public order.

It is a relief that the Court could see through the specious arguments of Mrs. Arroyos subalterns and ruled that CPR serves no valid purpose if it means the same thing as maximum tolerance and is illegal if it means something else.

It would have been a triumph of justice had the Court ruled that the Arroyo regime had in fact acted illegally by implementing CPR instead of maximum tolerance.
Nonetheless, the Court decision constitutes a blow to the Arroyo administration because it has disallowed the use of the kind of totalitarian double speak Malacanang has been accustomed to getting away with.

What of the states implementation of maximum tolerance under BP 880 before the advent of CPR? Unfortunately, there is hardly any qualitative difference. The Arroyo administration has time and again upheld the police and militarys undemocratic interpretation of the law as strictly no permit, no rally.

The supposed tolerance is only exhibited when demonstrations are huge; ergo the authorities have to keep a respectful distance. Or when the leaders at the forefront of the rallies are personalities like ex-Presidents, senators, bishops and people from the upper echelons of society. Or when the ruling regime is politically defensive after the latest expose, policy gaffe or some other political booboo that it never runs out of committing.

BP 880 is not about upholding the peoples fundamental rights to free speech and freedom of assembly. It is about restricting that freedom by imposing the requirement of a scrap of paper from the mayors office called a permit without which the police and military have the license to disperse and disperse brutally regardless of the absence of any clear and present danger to public safety and order except the danger that arises out of the peoples mounting call for Mrs. Arroyo to step down.

I should know. I was bashed on the head with a police truncheon and suffered a scalp laceration`that required 7 stitches, was hosed down and pummeled by water cannon, and was charged with "resisting arrest" and violating BP 880 in July 2004.

This was during a peaceful rally at Plaza Miranda violently dispersed by the Manila Police. We were calling for the withdrawal of Philippine troops from Iraq and the release of Filipino migrant worker, Angelo de le Cruz, from being taken hostage.

I had argued with the police ground commander, one Superintendent Sapitula, that Plaza Miranda is a freedom park and that we did not need a permit to demonstrate there. He insisted he had never heard of it.

Subsequently, in the complaint I filed with the Ombudsman that is still pending, the police stated in their counter affidavit that there was no ordinance that has declared Plaza Miranda as a freedom park and therefore it could not be considered one. They concluded that they were upholding the law that day by dispersing us with maximum intolerance.#