The alleged illegal acts and excesses committed by government forces such as the warrantless arrest of political opponents of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, including a member of the House of Representatives, and the police takeover on the Daily Tribune newspaper were condemned in a resolution introduced in the Senate this afternoon.
In a resolution principally authored by Liberal Party leaders Senate President Franklin Drilon, Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan, Senators Mar Roxas, Rodolfo Biazon as well as independent Sen. Pia Cayetano, the Senate condemned the “raid and exercise of control over print media, the warrantless arrest of several citizens including a member of the House of Representatives, and other similar acts carried out by the government pursuant to Proclamation No. 1017 issued by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.”
Drilon said several other senators, including those from the majority and the minority, have signified their intention to co-sponsor the resolution.
“During these difficult and uncertain times, we must prevent the weakening of our democratic institutions and protect civil liberties as the cornerstone of our democracy,” Drilon said.
The Senate President explained that as “the elected representatives of the people, senators can not stand idle while overzealous functionaries of President Arroyo trample upon the bill of rights of our people under the guise of a real or an imagined national emergency.”
In the resolution, the senators claimed that “these acts carried out by the government pursuant to Proclamation No. 1017 on its face contravene the fundamental guarantees of the Constitution particularly the basic civil liberties enshrined therein and deserve outright condemnation.”
“Despite MalacaÃ±ang’s claim that Proclamation No. 1017 was a mere statement of fact, alarming acts have been carried out pursuant to said Proclamation, including: (1) all scheduled rallies, with or without permit, were cancelled; (2) some protesters, including UP Professor Randy David and Akbayan President Ronald Llamas, were apprehended for inciting to sedition and violation of the Public Assembly Act; (3) the National Telecommunications called a meeting of the members of the Kapisanan ng mga Broadcasters sa Pilipinas (KBP) and discussed the possible revocation of franchise or take-over of media companies that engage in biased reporting or publication of matters affecting national security; (4) a 6:00 p.m. curfew was imposed on the press corps of MalacaÃ±ang; (5) one major newspaper, The Daily Tribune, was raided and other major dailies were placed under surveillance; and (6) Party-List Congressman Crispin Beltran was arrested based on a warrant of arrest issued during Martial law, while other lawmakers are under threat of arrest; (7) attempted arrest of Bayan Muna partylist Representative Satur Ocampo; (8) retired Police Major General Ramon Montano was likewise arrested while other lawmakers and opposition leaders are under threat of arrest,” the resolution said.
The resolution noted that on February 24, “even before the issuance of Proclamation No. 1017, officials of MalacaÃ±ang categorically declared on national television that an attempt to overthrow the government has been successfully quelled and restrained.”
The resolution cited that Article VI, Section 23 of the 1987 Constitution, “allows the Congress to authorize, by law, the President to exercise certain powers during times of national emergency, for a limited period and subject to restrictions set by it.”
“In accordance with Philippine constitutional practice and precedents, the declaration of a state of national emergency does not in any way suspend the Constitution and does not limit the civil liberties, basic human rights, freedom of the press and other fundamental rights enshrined therein,” it added.
The resolution also noted that Congress, as a separate and independent body, “has a constitutionally mandated duty to ensure that the demarcation defining the powers of the three branches of government are maintained and ensure, as part of the democratic checks and balance, that the acts of any other branch do not transgress.
The resolution noted that President Arroyo’s declaration of a State of National Emergency under Proclamation No. 1017 “was a statement of fact and does not entail the President’s exercise of additional powers.”
“Pursuant to Proclamation No. 1017, the President issued General Order No. 5 calling “upon the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to prevent and suppress lawless violence in the country” and directing “the Chief of Staff of the AFP and Chief of the PNP to prevent and suppress acts of terrorism and lawless violence in the country,” the resolution said.
“The directive issued under General Order No. 5 gives the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine national Police (PNP) and the PNP unbridled and broad discretion to carry out the supposed policy of Proclamation No. 1017, possibly opening boundless opportunities for abuse and violation of fundamental human rights,” the Senate resolution pointed out.
Reference: Lyn Eyana (0916-7068148)