Spitfire’s list

I’ve been reflecting on a Philippines Free Press editorial dating back to 1988, which demands what we need today: a respectable opposition. Though as you’ll see from Gail Ilagan’s column below, the country may be saved not by the opposition, but by the public from both opposition and administration. Perhaps God works in mysterious ways: we need Imee Marcos and Joseph Estrada to serve as the strongest shields of Mrs. Arroyo, until the rest of the country finally comes to its senses about her.

In his column today, Tony Abaya harps on the naive nature of those who would sit at the same table with National Democrats, much less march with them. And he has some valid points that I share: how can people praise, for example, Rep. Crispin Beltran, when he publicly praised the Tiananmen Square massacre? And who lavishes praise on Cuba because, at least, under Castro no dental cavity is left unfilled? I have visited the Vietnamese refugees in Vietville, Puerto Princesa City, and listened to their stories of how they were persecuted for crimes you and I commit over here on a regular basis: dreaming of setting up a Mom & Pop store, owning a vehicle, attending Sunday Mass, not believing in dictatorship, wanting to read any book we please, etc.

What Abaya overlooks, however, is this. At a time when government tries to make its efforts acceptable by publishing arrest lists filled with the names most citizens who consider themselves decent dislike, it is exceedingly dangerous to imagine that isn’t merely the tip of the iceberg. The dangerous logic of the government propaganda line -“if you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear”- is that it assumes the government is as reasonable, as decent, as self-controlled as you like to think you are. Who says they are, and will ever be? Who says any government has ever been that way? And who says any government, even if that way, will stay that way, unless people make themselves pests to ensure that will be so?

Who determines who has done something wrong? Not the courts. Not Congress, nominally, at least, representative of the people. The determiner of right and wrong is the military and police, under the guidance of the government: and as for their verdict, there’s no appeal.

Furthermore, whether one agrees or not that the National Democrats are obnoxious, dangerous, and devilish, it takes a government undergoing implosion to turn an otherwise unpopular enemy into a figure otherwise hostile people are willing to rally around to support. If what you have, for example, against Crispin Beltran is a warrant arising from a speech he made against Marcos, then you leave no choice for decent people but to disagree with the reason behind his arrest. When a government invites someone in for questioning, then, while the questioning is going on, discovers a moldy old warrant, and implements it, and then, having done that, only then begins to cobble together what it claims is evidence for more contemporary charges, you do not have justice, or a justifiable national security interest: you have what anti-opposition critics have accused the opposition of doing -a fishing expedition. So if a fishing expedition against Arroyo’s wrong, it is now OK if used against her critics? That’s the kind of twisted logic that can only turn more and more people against the administration. (Update: Sassy Lawyer points to a news report that the only place not covered by Proc. 1017 is Cebu City).

Anway. In the punditocracy today, let us begin, since “fairness” is being insisted upon at the point of a bayonet, in producing the Palace propaganda line, courtesy of Marit Stinus-Remonde. The right to overthrow presidents, she says, is not a human right; thank God the Americans, the French and the British had kings. Too bad Ferdinand Marcos didn’t proclaim himself one.

After getting a taste of the real-life differences between mainstream media and blogging, Connie Veneracion comes out today with an analysis of Proclamation 1017 which is very subtle. She defines what the proclamation is, and is not -but ultimately argues that public passions will be crucial to determining the legitimacy of the proclamation.

In the House of Representatives, Rep. Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. gave voice to the arguments he expressed to me last Friday, but amplifies and adds to them in the light of recent developments. In the first part of his speech he argues,

Indeed, no one has anything to fear from 1017 but fear itself.

Sure, the proclamation can have a chilling effect. That is what it is meant to do to those who commit crimes-but only crimes-that contribute to the emergency. The proclamation should instill no fear in those who speak the truth however distasteful to the President and her people. It certainly shouldn’t lower the temperature of our passionate commitment to the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights, and the separation of powers that is protected by the immunity of the members of Congress.

Indeed, the proclamation can chill us only if we let it-as when the House submits too readily when it should be resisting without qualification or demure to the encroachments of the presidency. The House should not be satisfied if small allowance is made for the personal dignity of the members hauled off to jail.

I heard colleagues in the House say that our members are not above the law and are nothing more than ordinary citizens. Excuse us, but we are not ordinary citizens. Arrest one of us and you detain an entire constituency and diminish to that extent the people who speak and act through Congress.

I have heard colleagues in the House say that congressmen are no more immune to arrest for rape than for rebellion. Those who say so probably have a proclivity for rape.

But there is a vast ocean of difference between rape and rebellion; the first can never be condoned, the second is the historical foundation of our new democracy since Edsa. And if there is any raping going on, it may be of democracy, and it isn’t by this branch of the government.

So, yes, the President has the power to proclaim, and we must presume she did it responsibly. But sooner rather than later, and unavoidably, she must come before Congress and show it that she was correct in her perception, and punctilious about the legality of the measures taken to address the threat.

Nor should she be afraid to do so. She has only to show us, when the emergency is over, the intelligence reports and the evidence to back them up.

Thus she must establish the premises of her proclamation, such as the existence of a conspiracy between the extreme Left and the extreme Right to bring down the duly constituted Government elected in May 2004.

She must establish their persistence in this regard.

She must show how certain segments of media have recklessly magnified the claims of these elements, and show why these claims are not entitled to be published or broadcast pursuant to the never-to-be-infringed and always-to-be-upheld freedoms of speech, press and peaceful assembly.

Accusations, especially of graft and corruption, not to mention election fraud, which strikes at very root of the assumption that hers is a duly constituted government, can never be restrained.

Butch Dalisay gives clear, concise, arguments as to why the President, and not the people, is the one doing the shooting -of her own foot:

What’s becoming clear to both sides is that she’s increasingly displaying a personal intolerance of opposition — even from within her own Cabinet — and intends to hang on to the full term she believes she’s entitled to, no matter what. A clampdown would give her a freer hand to move on with her reform agenda away from the incessant carping of her detractors — or at least that’s what her spokesman would say. And why not, indeed? As some of my US-based friends would urge, why not just drop all the bickering and rally behind GMA to modernize the nation?

We’d love to do that, folks; no one wants to march in the noonday sun, only to get whacked over the head by a policeman’s truncheon. GMA’s reform agenda looks good on paper — except that she hasn’t lifted a finger to implement, say, real electoral reform. And until she dusted this “state of emergency” rule out of the Constitution, and riding on a small economic bubble, it was even looking like the Lucky Lady would outlast her critics.

But once again, by arresting enemies and silencing pesky journalists, a shakened and still shaky government is proving that primal fear and survival instincts — not any modern philosophy of governance — rule the roost in Malacañang.

In her column, Gail Ilagan in Mindanao takes the state of emergency as a personal affront to the citizenry:

I appeal for the lifting of the national state of emergency because the populace is taking the declaration as a personal affront that implies a curtailment of our basic freedoms and rights. It has set off a high fear reaction which, because the Proclamation has prevented certain events to unfold as anticipated during the EDSA anniversary, has been rendered baseless. People need to attribute and justify the “unfounded alarm” that was raised in them. Fear turns to anger that will find direction, like a divining rod, to what had triggered the unfounded fear. When that happens, the politicians won’t need to pay people to go out to the streets to protest. They would do so on their own.

H. Marcos C. Mordeno in the same paper makes an interesting observation:

Back to the Fort Bonifacio event, it would seem Defensor was unnerved when Lt. Col. Archie Segumalian, commander of the 2nd Marine Battalion who joined Querubin, shouted “we just wanted clean elections.” Had Segumalian elaborated on the statement, which refers to the alleged attempt by the Arroyo camp to use the Marines in rigging the elections in Lanao in May 2004, Malacañang’s chief of staff would have realized his savvy as a propagandist would be useless against the word of what’s largely perceived to be the most professional military unit in the country, the Philippine Marines.

In the blogosphere, kantogirl blues has to have one of the funniest blog entries to come out of the latest mutation of this crisis. Going down the existing limitations on the freedoms people want to exercise, she suggests “pink is the new black,” referring to protest-friendly colors. Paolo Manalo runs with the idea:

If pink is the new black, and activists become “aesthetic connoisseurs”, will there be a militant beauty congress called Mga Anak ng Fuschia whispering in a very loud voice:

DON’T MAKE BAKA, MAKE NA LANG CHAKA!
DON’T MAKE GALIT, MAKE NA LANG LAIT!
IF NOT US, WHO PA KAYA?
IF NOT NOW NA, WHEN PA?

Perhaps Paolo, et al. are onto something: the launch of a colegiala-conyotic resistance. How else to explain something like GMA Stinks?

But seriously, folks…

After all points to the tremendous pressure -the piercing spotlight of history- on the justices of the Supreme Court by what this blogger charmingly calls “the Kapampangan spitfire”.

Kumintang, last Saturday, pointed out that what shouldn’t be overlooked is that even if one grants the President the right to do what she’s doing, she has a corresponding right to defend the very things she says must be sacrificed for the time being.

Torn & Frayed attended a talk given by Randy David and former UP Law Dean Pangalanan. Two tidbits from Randy David are particularly illuminating:

His most memorable remark was “Everyone is aware of the enormous class and economic differences in the Philippines, but you cannot really be aware of them until you taste the judicial system”.

Mike Defensor phone David to apologise and to explain he was not “on the list”. “There’s a list?” David said.

Speaking of lists, Punzi proposes what he thinks is the government’s order of battle.

Philippine Politics 04 has a very useful run-down of the perpetual confrontations between the administration and the media.

Finally, there has been a flurry of manifestos and statements. Among the latest:

Action for Economic Reforms and the Jose P. Laurel Constitutional Law Society

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  1. […] who was angered by the arrest of Bayan Muna Rep. Crispin Beltran. One such writer was my colleague Manuel Quezon III, who said he despised Beltran for having supported the bloody Chinese repression of the Tiananmen […]

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