The second day
The key question that has to be answered regarding the Gloria Arroyo's declaration of the state of emergency in the Philippines is: to what end? The ostensible reason for her actions is to defeat extralegal threats (aka coups de etat) against the state. Her opponents offer the alternative reason: to ensure an increasingly authoritarian continuance in office along the lines of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.
The state of emergency was aimed at meeting the following threat:
[a] "systematic conspiracy" by members of the opposition, communist groups and "military adventurists" is out to bring down her government
Which of these two paths -- to defeat a coup threat or cement herself in power -- will be clarified by events. There may be some uncertainty in the direction at first but the actual trajectory will be made manifest by Arroyo's own actions. Developments since the declaration of the state of emergency yesterday have been ambiguous. Blogger Ricky Carangdang notes the closure of the first newspaper.
Early this morning police raided the printing press and editorial offices of the Daily Tribune newspaper in Manila. ABS-CBN reporter Jorge Carino arrived at the scene just as the officers of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group were boarding their vehicles. They carted off copies of today’s edition. They did not show anyone a warrant. They did not explain their action. ...
Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales and chief of staff Mike Defensor both admitted that the enforcement of 1017 could possibly include taking over media companies and public utilities, although Gonzales hastened to add that there was no such plan in the works. Defensor offered no such clarification. Also yesterday, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye was quoted as saying that Malacanang may opt to issue “guidelines” about how the media should conduct interviews with parties hostile to the government. Yesterday’s actions should serve as a warning to all independent media.
This can be interpreted as part of the process of dismantling the media arm of the "systematic conspiracy" but it can also be seen as the first ominous step to muzzling press freedom. A Philippine lawyer-blogger now reports arrests of opposition political figures.
Uncertainty hangs in the air as the crackdown on alleged coup conspirators in the wake of President Arroyo’s declaration of a state of national emergency yesterday begins as Rep. Crispin Beltran (PL - Anakpawis) was arrested this morning on the strength of a 1985 warrant of arrest. Rep. Satur Ocampo (PL - Bayan Muna) hemself managed to evade the clutches of police in the nick of time, even as two of his aides were nabbed instead.
Both Beltran and Ocampo are members of the political wing of the Communist insurgency; former operators whose nearest analogue would be Gerry Adams of the IRA. These arrests can be construed as a strike against the "communist groups" allied with the "military adventurists" threatening the Arroyo government. But more suspicious minds will note that Congressman Beltran had an outstanding warrant from 1985 which could have been served without the emergency powers. Nor is it clear why the government takeover of "media companies and public utilities", as expressed by a government spokesman, has any relevance to suppressing a coup de etat, unless one can imagine why the telephone companies and television stations should be taken over as part of a campaign to suppress a rebel group within a national army.
It is precisely the lack of a visible crackdown on the rebel officers -- only a handful have been arrested -- which is the most curious aspect of events so far. It is unclear why Gloria Macapagal Arroyo should require emergency powers to rein in the Army when its mutineers are under the "personal custody" of superior officers. When the full measure of existing law is not applied, as in the case of the 1985 warrant on commie Congressman Beltran, what is the need for emergency powers? For a legal parsing of the emergency proclamation visit Proclamation 1017. The key riff:
The text and the title are totally unrelated. ... But Proclamation No. 1017 is not about a state of national emergency but is based, as clearly stated in the dispositive portion, on Section 18 of Article VII of the Constitution which refers to “lawless violence, invasion or rebellion”. Now, why in the world would Proclamation No. 1017 be titled Declaring a state of national emergency when it is about something totally different?
Maybe some of the lawyers in the blogosphere can have a go at it.
There are two parts to facing the Philippine crisis. The first is to decide what red lines, if crossed, would constitute convincing proof of which motive -- the legitimate desire to defend a state or unbridled ambition -- is operative with Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The second, assuming the first part can be answered, is to decide what to do if the red line is crossed; what response is appropriate if it becomes apparent that the emergency process is not protecting the Philippine Constitution but dismantling it.