Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Drawing a Line on the Concrete. With my blood, if necessary

Just in case I didn't make myself clear with the previous post (I guess I didn't), then let me make it clear, especially to my old comrades in the UCSC, and to its current generation if they are still inclined to listen, even for a bit, to the ranting of an old man:

First, I do not agree with violent overthrow of governments. Corollary to that is my disagreement with military juntas or any similar systems. Liberals are supposed to be process-oriented, yes? The ends can never justify the means, and if someone will tell me that they have to burn the house in order to save it from termites, then I definitely have a problem with that. The same with authoritarian regimes: so long as individual and human rights are being curtailed in any way, then I am also very much against those.

Which leads me to my second point: the rampant and brazen assault of the Macapagal-Arroyo government on the Bill of Rights. Dammit, Madame President, but one does not need to be a lawyer to understand what Sec. 18, Article VII means in its entirety. Nothing, absolutely nothing justifies the government's actions at the proclamation of 1017. In many cases, it was not only illegal but indecent, too. The best example is the way Randy David and Argee Guevarra were picked up. Or how about the way those poor people who were at Karingal with Prof. David were treated? Dammit, Madame President, but those were women and children! On the way to EDSA to celebrate People Power I! Not only did your men deny them their constitutionally-mandated right to freedom of speech and assembly, but your men also treated them- especially the children! Good God, those poor children!- harshly, as if they were hardened criminals!

Illegal? The way government has been comporting itself since Proc. 1017, it has been nothing but barbaric. Inhumane, even.

Let me level-off here: as someone who has experience and training in security matters, I can understand and even appreciate the situation that can make a President of a democracy call on the extraordinary powers granted him or her by their constitution. Until the brazen disregard for the Constitution by the Macapagal-Arroyo government, I was ready to argue to anyone that, given the possible threat posed by disgruntled members of the military, government's declaration of a State of
Emergency is valid. There is - again - another attempt at a power grab, and this time seriously involving members of the AFP and the PNP, the Scout Rangers and Special Action Force no less, two of the most elite security forces in the country.

Government has a right to defend itself. That I can understand. If some soldiers and policemen get the short end of the stick (or, in this case, the very hard end of one) for actions contrary to their standing orders and the chain of command, then tough luck. The military is not a democracy, and going against the chain of command outside normal channels can really get you into a lot of heat. But even if the military is not a democracy, there should be other ways, other means, because the country they serve is (supposedly) a democracy.

I'll also argue against those who could so... carelessly endanger the Republic through actions like this. This is not Martial Law (well, at least until last Friday). This is not the Erap years. This is a country we built together, at least until
8 July 2005. I know so many are dissatisfied at GMA's governance, but if I find out that some of my Mentors, and those few elders I still respect, are part of the "plan" (if there ever was one) last Friday, then my idealism will most certainly take a fatal blow. I think what defines us in the Center from those of the radical Left and Right is that we do not subscribe to the adage, "the ends justifies the means." That is perhaps the one single thing I hate about Communism, its willingness to engage in whatever means necessary to achieve its revolution. In all my encounters with the radical Philippine Left, this has always colored my perception of them. But we are of the Center. Some of us are even proud to call ourselves "Moderates." Aren't we then supposed to be process-oriented? When we engage in warfare - whether it be on the literal, physical level, or the metaphorical, socio-political one, or both - shouldn't we comport ourselves in a way that our actions do not condemn us as well?

Yet... I cannot sit here and say I agree with what has been done to our rights in the last few days. Disagree? No: I am horrified. I am indignant. I am shocked. I am outraged.

Yes, I know what the Tribune and
Malaya have been doing. Yes, I know what ABS CBN really subscribes to. But, to quote the '87 Consti, "no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances." (Sec. 4, Article III)

As the Tribune petition to the Supreme Court said, Proc. 1017 is not even a law, so what right does government have to do what it did? Sec. 18, Article VII? Bullshit. Again I quote Par. 4, Sec. 18, Article VII: "A state of martial law does not suspend the operation of the Constitution, nor supplant the functioning of the civil courts or legislative assemblies, nor authorize the conferment of jurisdiction on military courts and agencies over civilians where civil courts are able to function, nor automatically suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus."

I don't like the Tribune. I believe it's too biased a paper for its own good, or even to be regarded as serious journalism. I believe it's just propaganda on print. The
Malaya is little better, although Lito Banayo is good for a couple of politically-accented laughs.

But those two were newspapers. Legit newspapers. Members of the Press. Government has no right to even threaten media nor tell it what to do because the fundamental law of the land says so.

I don't like rallies all that much, in the context of so much democratic space. I believe they serve a purpose, and are a necessary part of civil society's toolkit, but a functioning democracy should have other, more effective avenues for addressing the issues confronting its citizenry.

But rallies are expression both of free speech and assembly. In a democracy, we, the people, should be able to gather where we choose and say what we want, observing only the natural laws of decency and reason. The people - on whom, as the Preamble to the '87 Consti states, resides all powers and emanates from them - should have a right to complain about a President they think has been failing them. Why? Because the fundamental law of the land says so.

And no one, most especially the President who swore she'd defend that Constitution, nor the military and police who said the same oaths, is above that fundamental law.

Y'know what? I helped kick Erap out in '01. But in fairness to the guy, he gave us this much: the right to assemble and speak. Even if it cost him so much after.

I wonder, if the current President could (continue to) do worse than that?

No, this is wrong. I may not agree with the way Black and White has defined the whole issue that began with the Garci tapes, but in this I will agree: there are just some things that are downright wrong. And government’s actions since Proc. 1017 have been nothing but wrong.

The Bible says that when your brother offends you, the first thing you do is point it out to him. If he still doesn’t get it, you bring a friend along who will witness to his wrongdoing. If he still thinks otherwise, then the Bible was clear on how such a person should be treated.

If the Macapagal-Arroyo administration continues to think it’s not doing anything wrong with Proc. 1017, then we have a problem here.

And then, I think, it’s time to once again draw a line on the concrete with our blood, and tell those who would trample on our hard-fought rights that enough is enough, and that we’d be damned if we let another dictator rise and put us and the Republic in chains again.

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