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Jan 19

Freedom House: Philippines “partly free”

Newsbreak reports that Virgilio Garcillano’s closest associates have been promoted and now enjoy increased authority in the Commission on Elections.

Courtesy of Publius Pundit comes news of Freedom House’s latest rankings of the freedoms of nations around the world. While the country’s rating (“partly free”) remains unchanged from last year, our levels of freedom, according to the group, show a “modest but ominous” decline, and thus represent a “Downward trend arrow due to a spate of political killings specifically targeting leftwing political activists”. The report says,

Although the factors contributing to freedom’s decline in the region varied from country to country, ethnic and religious division stood out as a major problem in some countries – Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Fiji – and a potential source of discontent in others, including Indonesia, which retained its designation as Free. Perhaps the most disquieting aspect of the year’s developments is the fact that three countries previously considered showcases of Asian freedom – Thailand, the Philippines, and East Timor – experienced considerable setbacks.

See their reports and charts:
Fiw07 Overview FinalFiw07 Charts

Yesterday, Philippine Commentary took a look at my Thursday column and reiterates his argument that People Power is harmful to democracy. He and I have argued this point many times, in our respective blogs and in person, and continue to agree to disagree. But let me reiterate and revisit some points about People Power, and in particular its last manifestation, Edsa Dos.

Countries that were born of revolutions have the burden of either succumbing to a permanent state of revolution, or of finding ways to establish a regime that makes future revolutions impossible. But even efforts to make revolutions impractical, impossible, and illegal, can only be temporary, however long the duration. The United States is an example of a country born of a revolution (1776), that changed its basic law soon after establishing itself (the present Federal constitution of 1789 that replaced the previous Articles of Confederation), that reinvented itself in the wake of a Civil War, and again in the face of economic collapse (during the Great Depression) and again in the face of civil strife (The Great Society of the 1960’s). The Bonus Marchers of the 1920s and the Civil Rights campaigners of the 1960s and Anti War protesters of recent years all exercised a limited kind of People Power.

When American officials were skeptical over the Filipino desire for independence, a great demonstration was held in Manila unmatched in numbers until Ninoy Aquino’s assassination in 1983: the invocation was made by Jorge Bocobo. It was a kind of People Power, too. And People Power as a political concept was developed through the “parliament of the streets” in the pre- and post-Ninoy assassination period. The result was People Power as we presently understand it: a non-violent effort at regime change.

That change was accomplished in 1986, totally, and partially in 2001. The problem to my mind is that what took place in 2001 was not allowed to reach its logical conclusion: which was the fall of the existing constitutional order. With Marcos’s fall in 1986 came the fall of the constitutional order he’d manufactured; with Estrada’s fall should have come the fall of the constitutional order born in 1987 but which had failed by the impeachment walkout.

Instead -and this is where Cardinal Sin and Cory Aquino and so on will end up being judged by posterity- the great division between the ranks of the Center and the Left, with the Center preferring a constitutional handover (what Philippine Commentary calls a coup d’etat) and the Left and Left-leaning preferring a march on the presidential palace, resulted in the Supreme Court intervening.

As Philippine Commentary correctly points out, the decision of the Supreme Court to allow the Chief Justice to troop to the Edsa Shrine to swear in the Vice-President, means that it cannot properly judge subsequent cases against Joseph Estrada. Worse, it complicated the issue -irredeemably so, it would seem- by inventing a new way for the presidency to be vacated (“constructive resignation”). What Philippine Commentary overlooks is how the people of Estrada himself made the invention possible, by shrouding Estrada’s departure from the palace in as much ambiguity as possible.

We cannot tell if those whom I witnessed march on the Palace on that January day, would have forced Estrada to bow to public pressure and explicitly resign, or if there would have been a bloodbath and perhaps the first lynching of a president in our history; or if the middle forces at the Edsa Shrine would have melted away soon after or even if both anti-Estrada forces would have reunited for a protracted campaign, or if reinforcements from the provinces would have arrived, to plunge the country into Civil War. All we know is that these possibilities entered the minds of Cory, the Cardinal, the Chief Justice, even the military, with or without whispering from the Wormtongues in the then-Vice President’s camp.

What we have had is a classic case of old laws and legal points of view being unable to keep up with how a society and its values have changed over time. The other day on my show I pointed out the following:

The Nuremberg, Tokyo, and Manila war crimes trials all led to the widespread adoption of the principle that an order, even if legal, should not be followed if it contravenes morality. For example, German and Japanese officers and officials were sentenced to be hanged because their argument that they “were just following orders” was not a valid defense for their crimes. [And yet] Art. 231 of our own penal code sounds as if it could have been written by the Nazis: as long as a superior issues an order “with all the legal formalities,” it must be obeyed by an inferior official. This is the sort of rigid requirement of law that led to martial law with all its trappings of “presidential decrees” and “letters of instruction.”

(the above refers to Article 231, Book 2, Chapter 6, of the Revised Penal Code, to wit:

Art. 231. Open disobedience. – Any judicial or executive officer who shall openly refuse to execute the judgment, decision or order of any superior authority made within the scope of the jurisdiction of the latter and issued with all the legal formalities, shall suffer the penalties of arresto mayor in its medium period to prision correccional in its minimum period, temporary special disqualification in its maximum period and a fine not exceeding 1,000 pesos.

(But makes me wonder about Article 234,

Art. 234. Refusal to discharge elective office. - The penalty of arresto mayor or a fine not exceeding 1,000 pesos, or both, shall be imposed upon any person who, having been elected by popular election to a public office, shall refuse without legal motive to be sworn in or to discharge the duties of said office.

Which was the article that got me thinking about the Revised Penal Code in the first place some years back.Sadly, the links dating back to 2004 seem out of date; I’m sad the Today editorial quoting my column has vanished into the electronic ether; hopefully the new comprehensive list of each Inquirer columnist’s columns will solve the problem of vanishing online copies of columns).)

Anyway, now we have our fire-breathing Secretary of the Interior now saying, resistance is futile, as it can get local officials prosecuted for that old-fashioned colonial crime, Sedition. Talk about handing your opponents a campaign issue on a silver platter!

Iloilo City Boy takes up the cudgels for a Third Force in a very persuasive manner. But he ignores the storming of the provincial capitol, which risks transforming the fight in the region into an admin vs. opposition fight. Drilon vs. Gonzales will already imbue a local race with national characteristics; Manila ordering policemen to break down the door of the provincial capitol ahead of a deadline for the courts to intervene, makes things worse. I wouldn’t underestimate the effect images like the police storming of the Iloilo capitol can cause (see Rasheed Abou-Alsamh’s take on it; see Marichu Villanueva who points out Tupas is an ally of Drilon).

I think then, it would be a mistake to attribute all opposition, or reservations, to the idea to “pro” Estrada or “pro” Arroyo people. Even the list he mentions isn’t very different from what the traditional opposition has so far announced. Second of all, a third force would be hard put to run a full slate, anyway. Third, my approach is based on asking these questions:

1. Which slate would at least view impeachment with an open mind, or if with a closed one, then at least in favor of a more democratic attitude, which is, to impeach?
2. Which slate would have an interest in defending the rights of the Senate (and the constituency it represents), in the face of uncooperation, hostility, etc. from the executive?
3. Which slate would be in a good position to derail any future mischief concerning the constitution?

Obviously, on all three counts, any administration slate would be disqualified: it would acquit the President at all costs, if there was an impeachment. It would roll over, die, or wag its tail in the face of executive efforts to ignore the Senate or bend it to its will; and it would participate gladly in efforts to amend the Constitution to build a one-party, unicameral, parliament.

The minimum political consideration is, the country has to be assured of 8 pro-impeachment or genuinely open to impeachment votes in the Senate in addition to the 8 already there. It’s up to the voter to then form a slate out of whoever’s put forward by the existing opposition, or a future third force. But I for one, will not get in the way of the opposition raising its issues against the administration, while we wait for a third force to be put together, announced, and then evaluated by the voters.

The problems faced by Edgardo Angara indicates the primary problem with the Third Force concept until and unless a proper slate is announced: no politician can exist in a vacuum, and the public, for one, essentially views the senate elections in referendum terms. Angara is unacceptable to the traditional opposition; he knows, however, that running under the auspices of the Palace is a political kiss of death; yet if he ran independently it would have to be under circumstances that won’t doom him as an agent of the Palace to subvert the opposition. How could Angara achieve that? Only if an over-all respectable Third Force slate were announced -not before.

Amando Doronila makes a Fearless Forecast and says the elections will prove more of the same -a continuing stalemate, with neither side achieving the edge they so crave. Others, like JB Baylon, who has a radio show, have begun informal straw polls to get the public pulse.

Food for thought by way of the man who coined the phrase and concept, Global Nation, Joey Alarilla, on how Filipino bloggers may mark their best year yet; Convergent Journalism shares his thoughts on the difficulties faced by reporters who blog.

I had the pleasure of meeting Malaysian blogger Jeff Ooi last April during a SEAPA conference on “Free Expression in Asian Cyberspace” held in Manila. Now there’s news he’s been slapped with a defamation suit by a Malaysian newspaper. He’s a dedicated and very nice guy. So, by way of expressing solidarity in his time of adversity, as he himself says, Good night and Good Luck, Jeff.

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  1. cvj

    What i don’t understand is why the criticism is directed at the coming together (at people power) and not at the apathy the usually follows. It is the latter that allows abuses to go unchecked.

  2. Nicholas

    I’m in agreement with Joey about 2007, as we approach the elections, bloggers are going to have their say.. And as the last U.S elections have proved, web 2.0, social media, Youtube, and George Allen’s wild racial slurs were somewhat responsible for shaping the results… The presidential candidate-to-be withered and died a political death..

    Let bloggers unite, I think we can make a difference this coming election, and shed light on the lies and half-truths that these candidates will certainly try to have us believe…

  3. hvrds

    Why democracy (democratic space) in the Philippines is at risk. The New Cold war is at hand. The present administration will pull out all the stops to maintain power till 2010 or beyond. The game is in the House not the Senate. This is gonna be a very expensive election. The U.S. does not care who is in power as long as they continue to be their SOB. There is no better dog than GMA. Provincial capitals control the canvassing.

    “Back in 1979, in her essay ”Dictatorship and Double Standards,” published in Commentary, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick elaborated the distinction between ”authoritarian” and ”totalitarian” regimes. This concept served as the justification of the American policy of collaborating with right-wing dictators while treating Communist regimes much more harshly: authoritarian dictators are pragmatic rulers who care about their power and wealth and are indifferent toward ideological issues, even if they pay lip service to some big cause; in contrast, totalitarian leaders are selfless fanatics who believe in their ideology and are ready to put everything at stake for their ideals.”

    “Her point was that, while one can deal with authoritarian rulers who react rationally and predictably to material and military threats, totalitarian leaders are much more dangerous and have to be directly confronted.”Slavoj Zizek, NY Times.

    “Waking Up to Reality”
    “Condi makes nice in the Middle East by Fred Kaplan
    East.”http://www.slate.com/id/2157678/

    Condi “mushroom cloud” Rice, the neo-marxist, kisses ass for her bossman. Now she has to organize the war vs the Shias in Iran with the predominantly authoritarian Sunni states of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait and the Sunnis in Iraq. The target is Persia and Central Asia. The Turks, Russians and British have been there before. Now the new empire is taking over. Over a million Filipinos are smack in the middle of it all.

    Proving once again the defense of Empire is always bloody. Most especially to the people who are allied with empire.

  4. bogchimash

    “…totalitarian leaders are much more dangerous and have to be directly confronted.”

    in my humble opinion, which, of course, may be wrong, i think totalitarian leaders are more predictable because they wear their hearts on their sleeves.

  5. cvj

    Proving once again the defense of Empire is always bloody. Most especially to the people who are allied with empire. – hvrds

    Or as Henry Kissinger once said, “to be an enemy of America can be dangerous, but to be a friend is fatal”

  6. UPn student

    A country that is NOT FREE by Heritage but which is demonstrably the country with the most IQ-Intelligent People — China — just hit a satellite the size of a carabao dragging a cart that is 500 miles up in space. Very impressive!!!
    Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, version 2 may be sooner than later.
    ==========
    The New York Times
    January 19, 2007
    Flexing Muscle, China Destroys Satellite in Test
    By WILLIAM J. BROAD and DAVID E. SANGER
    China successfully carried out its first test of an antisatellite weapon last week, signaling its resolve to play a major role in military space activities and bringing expressions of concern from Washington and other capitals, the Bush administration said yesterday.

    Only two nations — the Soviet Union and the United States — have previously destroyed spacecraft in antisatellite tests, most recently the United States in the mid-1980s.

  7. jm

    mlq3,

    “Worse, it complicated the issue -irredeemably so, it would seem- by inventing a new way for the presidency to be vacated (”constructive resignation”).”

    I had posted before:

    “Abandonment” of office was cited as one reason for declaring vacancy or supporting what amounts to a “constructive resignation” the central thesis. CJ Davide had spoken of “judicial transendence” which could be the underlying judicial ideology behind the Court’s “judicial activism” a sample of which is the “extra-constitutional remedy” applied in the case of Erap’s “abadonment” and “constructive resignation” leading to the swearing in of GMA as “acting president”.

    I’m not a lawyer, these terms and concepts are “way up over my simple mind”. But some terms seem self explanatory “extra-constitutional” means outside of the constitution, “constructiive resignation” is not written nor could be “constructed” to be in the constitution, that even granting that such is established it falls short of the requirement of the constitution, the prescribed procedure for a President to tender resignation was not followed, so that, I think, the proceedings at EDSAII lead by CJ Davide could be a case of “constructive sedition”.
    ***
    So, if EDSA 2 was a case of “constructive sedition” then GMA’s continued stay in power is a case of “contintuing sedition”.

    No wonder, GMA behaves like the outlaw that she is.

  8. cvj

    UPn Student, that’s a neat trick, but considering that China is unable to restore its physical connections to the outside world after several weeks, it might be better off building satellites rather than blowing them up. Polluting space with bits of satellite debris resulting from their experiment, that would damage orbiting satellites or other spacecraft, is not really a responsible act for an up and coming superpower.

  9. john marzan

    And People Power as a political concept was developed through the “parliament of the streets” in the pre- and post-Ninoy assassination period. The result was People Power as we presently understand it: a non-violent effort at regime change.

    That change was accomplished in 1986, totally, and partially in 2001. The problem to my mind is that what took place in 2001 was not allowed to reach its logical conclusion: which was the fall of the existing constitutional order. With Marcos’s fall in 1986 came the fall of the constitutional order he’d manufactured; with Estrada’s fall should have come the fall of the constitutional order born in 1987 but which had failed by the impeachment walkout.

    Instead -and this is where Cardinal Sin and Cory Aquino and so on will end up being judged by posterity- the great division between the ranks of the Center and the Left, with the Center preferring a constitutional handover (what Philippine Commentary calls a coup d’etat) and the Left and Left-leaning preferring a march on the presidential palace, resulted in the Supreme Court intervening.

    I believe Cory and Sin were trying to do what they think was best at that time. But I don’t think they (even with Maam Gloria) knew the whole picture of what was going on behind the scenes. The left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing.

    And it’s not the threat of the Left marching to the palace that worried many people. The police and military still loyal to the government would have been able to manage them.

    No, not the Left, Manuel. It was the Rightwing strike forces of Mike Arroyo and Chavit Singson that probably worried Malacanang at that time. It’s the thought of military-on-military violence, with civilians caught in the crossfire, that got people scared.

    http://www.politicaljunkie.blogspot.com/2006/02/news-flash-military-coup-topples.html

    Mike Arroyo:

    “Chavit Singson had Plan B involving elements of the military to strike the first blow. They would kindle the spark by withdrawing from the government, and one by one others would follow: Class ’71 would also withdraw, then Class ’72, and so forth. But General de Villa warned that the timing had to be precise because one untimely move against the government and the military would automatically defend it. The move must be made at what De Villa called a ‘defining moment.’

    “You see, General De Villa had his Plan A, which was better than ours, because his was focused on the Chief of Staff and the Service Commanders. At past one o’clock p.m. January 20, Chief of Staff Angelo Reyes defected but we knew that already the night before, when negotiations had lasted until the small hours. By past 2 a.m. we knew Reyes had been convinced to join. His only condition was: Show us a million people on EDSA so it will b easier to bring in the service commanders…

    “Our group there was a back-up strike force. In fact, it was our group that won over to our side the PNP first. If Panfilo Lacson had resisted, he and his men would have been repelled: there would have been bloodshed, but not on EDSA. In every place where Erap loyalists had a force, we had a counter-force to face it, with orders to shoot. And not only in Metro Manila. Carillo had already been sent to the provinces; and in Nueva Ecija, for instance, we had Rabosa. This was a fight to the finish…

    At atapang na lalaki si Mike ARroyo dito:

    “I was negotiating with Pardo up to three o’clock in the morning: niloloko lang pala kami. But I told him point-blank: “If by six o’clock this morning you haven’t given us the resignation letter, we will storm the gates of Malacañang!’ But they insisted on more talk: with De Villa up front, and my back channel debate with Pardo, which even became a three-way contest, with Buboy Virata pitching in.

    “But the threat to march to Malacañang was for real. And so was the danger of bloodshed. I wasn’t telling Gloria everything: I didn’t want her alarmed. So she didn’t know about the orders to shoot.”

  10. john marzan

    We cannot tell if those whom I witnessed march on the Palace on that January day, would have forced Estrada to bow to public pressure and explicitly resign, or if there would have been a bloodbath and perhaps the first lynching of a president in our history; or if the middle forces at the Edsa Shrine would have melted away soon after or even if both anti-Estrada forces would have reunited for a protracted campaign, or if reinforcements from the provinces would have arrived, to plunge the country into Civil War. All we know is that these possibilities entered the minds of Cory, the Cardinal, the Chief Justice, even the military, with or without whispering from the Wormtongues in the then-Vice President’s camp.

    There are multiple what-if possibilities. Let’s focus on one: say there was violence, Erap, Jinggoy were lynched and hanged. Ping was captured and executed by Mike Arroyo’s strike force.

    So hindi na “people power” talaga ang Edsa Dos kundi isang military-civilian coup. Totally unlike the First Edsa in every way, shape and form. It’s also precedent setting. A “new way” to replace any democratic Philippine government.

    Of course, Maam Arroyo promised that this Edsa will usher in a new kind of government, one based on fighting corruption, unity and healing, good governance, and morality… NOT!

    First day of office, after Edsa Dos, IMPSA kaagad ang nasa isip ng mga kumag na ito. And the gov’t was wracked by numerous corruption scandals ever since. FPJ ran for the presidency in 2004, along with an ailing Raul Roco, pero ninakaw ni Arroyo at Garci ang election, just like Marcos did with Cory.

    So ever since that time, Arroyo has been fending off attempts to do to her what they did to erap. from the military/civil society, from the Left and from erap supporters. Cycle of violence. Because people finally realized that elections under her corrupt amoral admin are meaningless and “democracy” is a farce.

  11. baycas

    re: freedom house rating…

    COUNTRY STATUS is obtained by the average of the Political Rights (PR) and Civil Liberties (CL) Ratings:
    1 to 2.5 Free
    3 to 5 Partly Free
    5.5 to 7 Not Free

    our status from 1972 to 2006 was mostly Partly Free (from 1972 to Nov 1986, 1990-1995, and 2005-2006).
    we were Free from Nov 1986-Dec 1989 and from 1996-2004.

    we enjoyed the lowest average of 2 only during Nov 1986-Nov 1987 (PR=2, CL=2, Status: Free); the rest of the period with Free status the average is at 2.5.
    we had a dismal average of 5 in the period 1972 to Nov 1983.

    reasons for marcos years’ Partly Free status and initial cory years’ Free status are obvious. initial fvr years’ Partly Free status noted a slump in the PR while in the remaining years a decline in CL was seen.

    coming from a straight nine-year Free status (the period in which fvr, erap and gma were involved), the past two years (2005-2006) showed, however, a downtrend in our political rights ratings…reverting us back to the Partly Free category.

    from a combined total of PR and CL amounting to 10 in the 1970’s and going steady at 5 in the late 1990’s up to 2004, a major setback happened in the forms of electoral fraud and political killings since then.

    this year, May we overcome the setback and become free again…

  12. baycas

    comparative scores for all countries can be obtained here.

  13. UPn student

    John M… I don’t think this will mean anything to you, but history books will state that even after all the recounts, the votes for Marcos were more than the votes for Cory.
    Interestingly, not a single Oppositionist is asking for a recount of the GMA-vs-FPJ elections.

  14. john marzan

    Interestingly, not a single Oppositionist is asking for a recount of the GMA-vs-FPJ elections.

    Bullshit. The Poe camp called for a recount on the disputed COCs and ERs in the Visayas and Mindanao areas during the canvassing of votes in 2004. They were outvoted and out-“noted” by Raul Gonzalez, Kiko Pangilinan and other arroyo allies.

    Kaya nga na-delay ang coronation ni arroyo nung June 2004. The Opposition were demanding a recount of the disputed COCs and ERs. But the pro-Arroyos said the oppositon is just “filibustering” and would only delay things if we did the recount.

    “Delaying the inevitable” raw, kumbaga. So hindi pinagbiyan ng kaalyado ni Arroyo ang opposition, at wala ni isang recount ang nangyari. Puro Noted lang.

    As for recounting the votes today? what for? it’s too late already. the disputed ERs and COCs (remember kasi na “hindi maayos” ang pagpapataas kay Maam ng militar) ang have already been switch and tampered with by arroyo’s clean-up operators:

    http://www.politicaljunkie.blogspot.com/2005/08/cheats-inc.html

    Switching ERs

    So starting September 2004, or three months after President Arroyo was proclaimed winner, a group hired by the administration reportedly started printing ERs that they intended to fill up and then switch with the genuine ERs that were in some of the ballot boxes being kept in the House of Representatives.

    The target of the operation was ERs from the Muslim Mindanao area and surrounding provinces, where the alleged vote padding was done only in the COCs. Apparently, the ER-switching was meant to fix the records to pass future scrutiny. The figures in the new ERs, when added up, would now be consistent with the totals in the COCs.

    The administration has repeatedly denied allegations of cheating.

    But this is the story that six operators who worked for President Arroyo told NEWSBREAK in recent interviews. We sought them out as we tried to complete the picture of what actually happened during the presidential elections. Most of them are long-time NEWSBREAK sources, and had provided information in our series of reports on poll fraud last year.

    They said that even if they revealed damaging information regarding the elections, they doubt if the opposition would really go out of its way to identify them and ask them to surface. “Some of them have utilized us in the past and they will be needing us in the future,” one of them said. For security reasons, however, these sources shall remain unidentified.

    One of the sources entered the room in the Batasan complex and participated in switching the fabricated ERs with the original ones in January and February this year. His participation was confirmed by two other sources, one of them a police officer who belonged to the group that planned this post-proclamation operation.

    The other sources were privy to this Batasan operation because they belong to the small circle of operators who carried out the padding of Ms. Arroyo’s votes before elections and after canvassing in various regions nationwide.

    The President, her close advisers, and officials of her party have maintained that she won in the elections fair and square. If the accounts of her own operators are to be believed, however, the administration not only planned to cheat way before the May 10, 2004, elections, but continued tampering with the presidential votes even after Poe had died in December 2004, and just before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal dismissed with finality his protest in March 2005.

    the recount should have been done during the 2004 canvassing. period. but it’s too late now.

  15. john marzan

    here’s the newsbreak article on archive.org

    web.archive.org/web/20051030173044/http://partners.inq7.net/newsbreak/cover/index.php?story_id=48366

  16. UPn student

    John M… my mistake, the Poe camp did ask for the recount. The Newsbreak archive story is also very illuminating. Too bad that the efforts have waxed and waned to pursue the vote-count machinations stories to its conclusion, especially since Newsbreak have named a few names.
    ..Now another election is coming up, and the Comelec vote-counting methodology and apparatus does not seem to have been improved a whit.

  17. dave michael

    history of american & filipino’s: from ally to enemy

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