Friday, February 24, 2006

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.

Commentary

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.

9 Comments:

Blogger sugar said...

"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,"

Its very relevant. Any decent coup plotter would send a brigade to immediately secure the media stations at the outset to be able to brodcast the message (or propaganda or whatever) that the coup was successful therefore dissuading (or at least delaying) any loyalists from instigating a counter attack. If theres no electricity you wont be able to broadcast nor will people be able to watch it.

2/25/2006 12:21:00 AM  
Blogger Lek the Avenger said...

About 10 minutes after learning of the situation in the Phillippines, I turned to watch Thai TV broadcast a plea for calm from PM Taksin.

My contacts behind the scene tell me he's being treated badly by a disgruntled long-time used-to-be-PAL of Taksin's, trying to blackmail him for NOT paying him off... real or imagined...

Suddenly, (hah!) things are VERY interesting... Iran's A-Bomb and Iraq's looming breakup and China's burgeoning 'freedom' to communicate and America's coming response(s)...

2/25/2006 12:42:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

lek,
There are no nukes in Iran, won't be any there, soon.
Iraq may well hold, it's Obit, premature, at least.

The question of how far to push the Constitutional envelope and when is that Constitution torn by the pushing. That question has resonance here in the US, as well as abroad.

Supporters of pushing, they defend to their last breath the Presidents ability to act, to "Save the Rebublic".
Detractors retort of lost liberties and Imperial ambitions, on the part of the President.

In most cases the President is not the Enemy of the Republic.
Except in the historical example, the one often held high, ROME!

Presidental terms, though are often extended, abroad. The Term of Service becomes a lifetime committment.
No buddy does it better, or ever could, nor should.

2/25/2006 06:28:00 AM  
Blogger Rizalist said...

One of the the most provocative things that happened in the first 24 hours were two warrantless raids of the newspapers Daily Tribune and Abante early Saturday morning. Ninez Cacho Olivarez who runs the opposition Tribune, is a nice old Spanish type lady who used to write for Philippine Daily Inquirer. Abante is the vernacular tabloid of broadsheet Malaya, graced by the grande old dame of Philippine Journalism, Carmen Guerrero Nakpil, a grand-daughter of Jose Rizal,the national hero. But I really can't understand the gang-banging style the govt of Arroyo has taken on this. This was an utterly gratuitous exercise that has now ignited the entire press corps andmedia and journalists and a lot of civil libertarians. I predict a huge media storm over this in the next week. Newsbreaks'sMarites Vitug, NUJP,PDI, ABSCBN , KBP, the broadcasters are already beating the drums.

Regarding the legal analysis of the Proclamation, there was a superb discussion whose audio I recorded (to do analysis myself) held by ABSCBN's Dong Puno with some really great minds -- Marichu Lambino, Dean Raul Pangalangan (UP Law School, Harvard) and Dean Amado Valdez(Feati) last Friday.

I'm doing a big post on the substantive matters but I will leave their most impt point:

The factual basis of the "the whereases" in 1017 may be questioned before the Courts even if the President has wide discretion as Commander in chief. In other words, the claim for example that there is tactical alliance between the Right and Left (#1 whereas and the longest) if proven false or misrepresented, could be cause to have 1017 revoked for abuse of discretion. Also,it turns out that 1017 doesn't actually give GMA any extra powers like warrantless searches or other martial law type powers, because in essence, the "type" of national emergency dealt with in the provision cited to justify 1017 comes from the article on Economy and national patrimony. Meaning it refers to ECONOMIC national emergencies.

Anyway like I said it might be big post coz there are nine whereases.

But expect about half a dozen SupremeCourt filings on Monday.

GMA has also now lost by the way Senate Majority Leader Francisco Pangilinan, who made scathing remarks on tv Friday night.

Also::: I don't believe the coup plot claim as reported! No details yet from the Palace,so I'll keep my powder dry on that one.

2/25/2006 08:08:00 AM  
Blogger Rizalist said...

The other very impt events of the first 24 hours were two very interesting charges filed: one against the Left and one against the Right. First Crispin Beltran as you've mentioned, has been arrested and charged on a rebellion case that is 21 years old! The warrant may have have been freshly issued a day ago though. It was not outstanding! Next, seven men, including former Sen. Gringo Honasan have been charged with the crime of COUP d'etat but it was for something three years ago -- involvement at Oakwood!

I hope you guys get the picture. The int'l media won't. They'll catch the words "charged" "coup d'etat" "Right" "Left" and think that's what 1017 was foiling. As FVR would say "B.S."

As for Danilo Lim, the AFP COS Generoso Senga told reporters the plot didn't involve the Magdalo or the leftists. Only the Army's special action force. (And not even the police's special action force, whose chief was first implicated, then removed from the conspirators's list, leaving only Danilo Lim) That was a blunder early on Friday afternoon, because what happend to the Left Right conspiracy? Dangerous because of the coming "factual basis"lawsuits. So arrest some old Leftist and not so old Rightists for coup detat and make sure the Media reports "the truth". That's the deal because 1017 also says the media are in on the destab plots. So they better behave or else. Well no, I see the elves and dwarves making arrows and axes all over the Shire. There's gonna be war and the Orcs will fall.

2/25/2006 08:28:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

In Manila, do the Police or the Army hold the keys to the City?

Are the Judges Independent or cronies of one of the factions?

Would the Army fire on Civilians,
this time around?

Is the Army in the Barracks or deployed?
Do they seem likely to stay there, where ever they are?

2/25/2006 08:43:00 AM  
Blogger Rizalist said...

desert rat--The military have all the heavy armor and weaponry. Police are generally lightly armed, ill-equipt, and none too mobile.

Would they fire on civilians this time? It depends on the civilians. A pure leftist militant assault on the Palace would probably see some deaths but I doubt those folks can muster a big enough crowd, certainly nothing like
Edsa 3 when a lumpen mob ofErap supporters stormed the Palace in May 2001. Two died. But as with Friday's rally in Makati, the official line was all rallies were forbidden, but it went on. After all Cory was there with half the Senate and a lot of the manicured matronas of Forbes and Dasmarinas Villages. Friday was really the old friends of GMA from Civil Society whose servants and gardeners are indistinguishable from the cops themselves. They know their place.

Judges--Twelve of the 15 sitting justices of the Supreme Court were appt by Arroyo, maybe half of those are from the First Gent's Law Firm, which also contributes the SecDefense Ave Cruz, a senior partner of the Firm. At lower levels, there has been a shakeout recently because ofseveral assassinations of judges. Many have left forprivate practice. Those who are left know what they are doing and are prospering. The Ombudsman (special anti graft court) has a backlog of 50,000 cases. (No anglospheric justice system here--its a hybrid Roman + Common Law). No jury system!

Will they stay in barracks? Yes, until they're forced to leave. By duty, or honor, or both. Hopefully both. But I would say it's up to less than a 100 officers. 50+1 against and GMA's out. Several key retirements by themselves could tip the mix to regime change.

It wouldn't be so bad.

No one in the military is interested in political power as Dictator. Not in the blood of those there. It's easier to just become a senator first. especially after doing a failed coup for name recognition.

2/25/2006 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger Amadeo said...

Yes, it is already the second day and it appears from all indications that for the Southern areas, Visayas and Mindanao, it is still essentially business as usual.

And on the first day, the only visible protest action was done in faraway Davao, but it was reported only 300 peaceably attended and thus, no report of confrontation or violence. And the rally was one to celebrate the EDSA 1 anniversary and not to denounce the state of emergency proclamation.

As gathered from on-line news sources and of course, blogs and email lists emanating from those areas, the general reaction is one of disinterest and nonchalance.

Maybe the general populace has been sated, having had one too many of this phenomenon called People Power.

2/25/2006 12:15:00 PM  
Blogger Rizalist said...

Newspaper Tribune has just been TAKEN OVER by the government! It's infamous, unbelievable. Imagine a newspaper in Sidney being raided and Chief of Police made Editor in chief! This may be the 3rd world, but we do know what democracy is.
There may be no more blogging soon either. The CPP-NPA are rejoicing. PCIJ blog is the canary in the mine. Last year they were already the subject of trial balloon, getting one webposting ordered removed. If PCIJ blog is taken down, I may be off-air too. Someone is playing for keeps. I fear even blogging will become outlawed...This is very very serious. Am checking to see if anyone's already missing in the blogosphere, where many are based on local servers. I may be posting only "news" today, or not at all...After a while the blogs will be the only reliable place, but they won't last long if this is going where I think.

If you stand for Denmark, Stand for the Philippines!

2/25/2006 04:00:00 PM  

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