Friday, August 11, 2006

Weapons of Choice: Arroyo’s Protracted Martial Law

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Sidebar Article to Legalized Terror

Arroyo’s recent policies seem to form a seamless strategy – a controlled issuance of draconian measures so as to contain public reactions without triggering a critical mass of opposition that would be enough to topple her. Thus, parallel with EO493, Arroyo also issued a plethora of executive weapons against dissent.

Aimed to strategically wage a protracted war against the opposition, the militants, and the civil society, Arroyo’s weapons intend to surgically dissect and dismantle critics and elements hostile to her regime. Let’s take a closer look at her arsenal:

1. CPR (Calibrated Preemptive Response) Policy

The administration announced a shift of policy from “Maximum Tolerance” to a stricter “Calibrated Preemptive Response (CPR)” for street demonstrations following the non-stop mobilizations by militant groups and the opposition in protest of the failure of impeachment proceedings in the lower house and of the Expanded Value Added Tax (E-VAT). Under the new policy, rallies without permits would be dispersed outright and protestors would be arrested and charged.

Ironically, CPR had been declared on the anniversary of Marcos’s Proclamation 1081, which placed the entire Philippines under Martial Law.

Status: Disarmed by the Supreme Court

2. EO 464 (Protection from Legislative Inquiry)

In an effort to stem publicity damages of Senate committee investigations, Malacañang issued Executive Order 464 last year to bar ranking government officials from appearing in congressional investigations unless authorized by the President. Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said that EO 464 is designed to keep Congress from abusing its oversight powers to advance certain personal or political agenda. The EO had been issued during the Senate investigation on the shady multi-million Venable LLP contract involving the National Security Adviser.

Even if it had been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, Malacañang seems to still have its way after it snubbed and ignored Senate invitations regarding its investigations on the missing OWWA funds.

Status: Disarmed by the Supreme Court

3. EO 454 (NTC Takeover)

After being attacked by a tirade of media-sensationalized issues, the Arroyo administration issued EO 454 transferring the independent National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) back to the Department of Transportation of Communication (DOCT). Since NTC have quasi-judicial and regulatory powers to cancel licenses and shutdown media corporations, it was feared that putting NTC under the direct control of the president might increase the president’s clout over the media.

If this is not enough yet, there had been proposals in the Lower House to reorganize NTC into a new super-body, the National Information and Communications Commission (NICC). NICC, proposed through House Bill 4942, is supposed to have broader regulatory powers over information, communication, broadcast, cable TV, and other multimedia infrastructures, thus expanding the administration’s political control over all channels of discourse.

Status: Scheduled for upgrade through HB 4942

4. Proclamation 1017 (Declaration of State of Emergency)

Ominously similar to Marcos’ Presidential Proclamation 1081 which placed the entire Philippines under Martial Law, Proclamation 1017 declared a “State of Emergency” which paved way for warrantless arrests of party-list representatives (Batasan 5 and Anakpawis Representative Crispin Beltran), government takeover of utilities including the media (most prominent of which is the Daily Tribune), and the violent dispersal of the 20th anniversary celebration of the People Power I revolution in EDSA.

The PP 1017 had been supposedly been triggered by a military uprising and an opposition-backed rightist-leftist conspiracy to topple her administration. Curiously, Marcos also used the same rightist-leftist conspiracy theory to justify PP 1081.

Status: Temporarily Disarmed, Reactivation Possible

4. EO 492 (MARS program)

GMA with former National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales
In order to monitor “destabilizers”, Malacañang issued EO 492 giving power to the National Security Adviser to supervise the creation of a surveillance program for the government and purchasing of the technology and equipments to implement this program. Dubbed as the Maritime Aerial Reconnaissance and Surveillance (MARS) program, the surveillance program is intended to enhance to coordination of military and civilian government units in various operations.

A total of P5 million had been allocated for the MARS program.

Status: Under Construction

5. Charter Change

The final and most effective weapon of Arroyo is none other than the Charter Change, which is supposed to modify the government from being unitary-bicameral-presidential system into a federal-unicameral-parliamentary one to resolve chronic political and social problems.

In the transitory provisions of the new constitution proposed by the Constitutional Commission (Con-Com), the new Parliament will be composed of all our legislators plus thirty appointees (curiously equal to the number of Con-Com numbers), and as a political compromise will still have Arroyo as the president. Cha-cha then effectively erases questions on Arroyo’s electoral victory by setting up a new government.

Status: Under Construction

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