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Posts Tagged ‘martial rule’

The holiday ceasefire between armed forces of the Government of the Philippines (GOP) and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), respectively, will start tomorrow, December 16, 2010 until January 3, 2011. This ceasefire, a product of the initial talks in Hongkong, augurs well for the success of the soon-to-be resumed peace talks between the two panels. It also helped that other confidence-building measures by the GOP, such as allowing NDF negotiator  Luis Jalandoni to enter the country and the withdrawal of the charges against the “Morong 43,” were undertaken.

However, a realistic assessment needs to be done beyond the symbolic confidence-building measures. The appointment of human rights lawyers and civil society advocates in the panel showed the seriousness of the government initiative this time around. This must be realized by the CPP which should drop its own tactical framework  and adopt the same serious approach to the peace negotiations. Both sides should persevere in negotiations until a permanent peace is attained.

The fundamental basis of the negotiations should be political. The raison d’etre of the rebellion–the economic, political, social and cultural demands of the CPP and its allied organizations–are in essence–its political party platform.  From their point of view, these are the necessary reforms constituting the national democratic and eventually a socialist makeover of Philippine society.

From the standpoint of the restored Philippine democracy, every political party or organization–or for that matter, everyone–is free to espouse ideas and beliefs. What is anti-democratic and hence cannot be allowed in a democracy is for anybody to prevent an idea or belief to be aired or propagated or force others to agree on one’s own ideas or beliefs. Even the State is constrained from doing this unless the very survival of society and State is at stake. Thus we enshrined in the Philippine constitution, in consonance with internationally-recognized human rights instruments, the various freedoms and rights of citizens in a democratic society.

The downfall of the Marcos dictatorship removed a major barrier to Philippine democracy and substantially weakened the argument for armed revolutionary struggle of the CPP and the NPA. The remaining political question in this regard is the reform of the current political order characterized by continued existence of warlordism and private armed groups, the politicization of the AFP and the police forces, and the various existing obstacles to full enjoyment by the people of the fruits of the restored democracy. The removal of these conditions (or the substantive weakening of these conditions) will enable the strengthening of democracy and render moot and academic the rationale for the armed struggle.

To be sure, these conditions or their solutions are not tied to the peace negotiations between the GOP and the CPP. These are already contained in the various reform agenda of other political forces in the country who are already contesting in the parliamentary arena. Whether the talks succeed or not, these reforms need to be put in place if we want to leave behind the dynasty-ruled, personalistic politics of “guns, goons, and gold” and establish a modern democracy regime in the country.

The second major context of the resumed peace talks is the fact–admitted openly or privately on both sides–that the CPP armed struggle and the AFP’s counter-insurgency program are both getting nowhere near for either side to claim complete victory over the other. The CPP and the NPA under its command may maintain their mobile bases in remote areas, evade military operations, or conduct occasional ambuscades or attacks on military posts but cannot by any means develop stable base areas, contend for control of any area, or strike decisive blows on the military’s capability. The GOP and the AFP and police forces under its command, on the other hand, does not have the demonstrated capability to cover all areas of insurgency and hence claim a permanent control of these areas, force the AFP to drastically weaken its capability for external defense in favor of internal counter-insurgency operations (particularly affected are the navy and the air force–logically strong in an archipelagic state), suspend the delivery of government services and entry of investments into the insurgency areas, and eat up the state resources that should have been used for more productive development endeavors.

However, it is the CPP that is getting the short end of the situation more than the government. As time goes on, its survival mode became more pronounced in direct inverse proportion to the growth of people’s participation in the democratic system. Even the growing influence of political groups identifying with its program but chose to participate in the parliamentary arena is a testimony to the dead-end anachronism that is the primary armed struggle in a democratic society. Worse, it has made the CPP vulnerable to the charge of becoming anti-democratic–a sharp reversal of its heroic role in the anti-dictatorship struggle.

The government–faced with its own dilemma of debilitating internal conflicts and various crises arising from global and domestic factors–needs to unite the people and enhance its own capability to steer the country in the sea of uncertainties arising from these crises.

Seeing the conflict in political terms means overturning the current boxes that both sides hitherto used in sitting down on the peace table. The government, particularly the armed forces, needs to discard its outdated good/evil anticommunist framework of the 50s and 60s. The CPP also needs to discard its messianic, “correct” ideological framework in vogue in the 60s. The world of the 21st century is vastly different from the one 50 years ago. In a sense, we all need to grow up.

It does not mean discarding the ideas or beliefs of those on either side of the fence. What a political settlement in a democratic setting means is that we allow all, including the CPP and the anti-communists, their day in the sun–to argue  their case before the people and get their support. Let them participate in the democratic free and fair elections and give the people a chance to see their wares and buy or reject them. This is the essence of democracy.

It means that there is no need for the current extended, laborious, step-by-step process of negotiations that basically advantaged those who are looking at these as tactical maneuvers within irreconcilable frameworks of a total CPP victory, on one hand, or the total eradication of communism, on the other hand. If the two sides sincerely chose to end the fighting, both can agree on a political settlement, based on the reform and strengthening of democracy, and unfettered participation of the CPP in our political processes.

Let democracy–or more accurately–the people ultimately decide the fate of the CPP position. All should serve the people, let the wounds or war heal, and let us unite the family that is the Filipino people.

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If there is an act that would define the 14th Congress and its legislative work, I would easily choose how it handled the Freedom of Information bill. It went through the motion of filing, conducting hearings, deliberating and debating on it, approving the FOI bill on third reading, synchronizing the HOR and House versions, and finally–with Senate already approving of the synchronized version–rejecting it in the HOR by a quorum lack. Only two steps–HOR ratification and presidential signature–are needed.

Alas, FOI law will not be. And we beheld the classic method by which the Arroyo administration undermined the democratic order by using the latter’s own rules (Constitution, laws, and House rules). The quorum question ranks right up there with the false filing of impeachment against GMA, the redefinition of a “midnight appointment”, short-cutting of procurement rules and regulation, and declaring martial rule through a “state of emergency.”

Unfortunately, this undemocratic mindset that evades responsibility to democracy will still be there in the 15th Congress. Democracy will have to find effective democratic tactics against undemocratic use of democracy. The passage of the FOI bill is both an end and a means to this end.

To the front!

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In short order, alleged Abu Sayyaf gunmen carried out attacks in Basilan, Malacañang announced a possible spill-over of the violence to Metro Manila, and a bomb attack was done against a Manila judge. there are also troop movements to Basilan, Masbate, and elsewhere where various areas are considered election hotspots.

These events are happening against the backdrop of dramatic events in the presidential electoral contest. Two authoritative surveys (actually three, if we add the last Zamora-commissioned SWS survey) during the third week of March indicated, one, the continued strengthening of Noynoy Aquino’s leading position; two, the dramatic  downshift of second-placer Manny Villar’s ratings; three, Erap Estrada’s rating upsurge; and four, Gibo Teodoro’s continuing dismal single-digit placing.

Teodoro resigned as Lakas-Kampi chairman, followed by his president and secretary-general (although Manglapus later rerturned as president), the defection to LP of Lakas-Kampi stalwarts such as congressman Neptali Gonzales and Albay governor Joey Salceda, and threats of others to likewise defect to LP and NP.

The terrorist incidents are suspicious in their role in possible no-election or election-cheating scenarios. They justify military control of specific places that are not only considered hotspots but also as possible areas for election manipulation.

We have now entered the cusp of the electoral campaign–a transition point where dreams are realized, fortunes are made, and the strategies are proven correct or wrong. The administration party is clearly the loser entering the transition, facing the loss of more members, dismal ratings for its candidate, and carrying the heavy load of its leader’s unprecedented unpopularity.

The Arroyos particularly face the nightmare of having no viable friendly candidate, including even the rumored “Villarroyo” card. Extra-constitutional or supra-electoral moves become a tempting, desperate option. It is within this context that the resurgent terror-counterterror activities must be viewed. BEWARE, BEWARE, BEWARE.

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Disregarding the explicit provisions in the Constitution, the discussions of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, and existing jurisprudence, the Supreme Court reversed itself and ruled, without benefit of a public hearing, that the President can appoint the Supreme Court Chief Justice during the period that the Constitution banned any midnight appointments.

Of the nine justices who voted in favor of President Arroyo appointing the next Chief Justice, five interpreted the Constitution as exempting the entire judiciary from the ban and four made a special case to exempt only the high court.

The five justices who took the position that President Arroyo could appoint all vacancies in the entire judiciary until June 30 were Associate Justices Lucas Bersamin (ponente), Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Roberto Abad, Martin Villarama Jr. and Jose Perez.

Those who also concurred but took the position that Ms Arroyo could appoint only to vacancies in the high court during the election ban but said the lower courts remained subject to the ban were Associate Justices Arturo Brion (who wrote a separate opinion), Diosdado Peralta, Mariano del Castillo and Jose Mendoza.

It is well to remember their names for their historical role in politicizing the institution and rendering inutile its moral standing with the people. The decision seems to give the impression of a hurriedly-done, half-baked concoction. The inescapable conclusion is that the majority are responding to pressures, principally coming from Malacañang.

It also validates the observation that these people are a (witting or unwitting?) party to whatever scheme that is unfolding in relation to the present elections. This is a moment of utmost vigilance.

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This coming May 2010 has spawned many scenarios–serious or not–that are not germane to the election itself but important within the context of retaining power by incumbent president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

That she and her group in Malacañang wants to stay in power is a given. They have been going this route since day 1 of her term in 2001. The political struggle in the past four years since the Garcillano tape exposé revolved around this attempt to maintain the power beyond 2010.

This, of course, expresses itself most graphically in the various desperate attempts to undertake charter change. As late as in the waning days of this present Congress, the attempts were made. However, all of them failed, defeated by the steadfast opposition of the people, the various democratic institutions such as the Supreme Court and the Comelec, and the political opposition.

As things stand out now, the 2010 elections–with its new automated system–will push through as scheduled. In the same breath, it can be said that the alternative scenarios–whether within or outside the context of the elections–also thrive in the people’s mind as energetically.

First, there is the scenario of the automated cheating. This scenario assumes that the Comelec, the Smartmatic-TIM joint venture company, the PPCRV citizen arm, and the watchers of the political parties are co-conspirators in this grand scheme.This entails the subversion of the source code and improper programming of both the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine and the consolidation servers at various levels.

A variation on this theme is the interception of the election return data and substitution at the lower levels of the process. Again, this will require inside knowledge in both Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM. The brouhaha over alleged jammers is within this scenario.

Another variation is the sabotage of the PCOS machines in certain controlled areas, reversion to the manual system of counting and canvassing, doing the cheating according to the old ways, and inserting the results  into the automated system.

Allegedly, there is the estimate that only 15% or even less of the votes cast need to be compromised in this manner to influence even the presidential election results, especially if it is a tight contest.

In this light, it is important to note the figures cited by Bishop Cruz and the PPCRV concerning the probable number of ghost or multiple registrants. Bishop Cruz cited the figure of 5 million while the PPCRV–based on its extrapolation of the 40,000 Davao multiple registrants–put it at 3.2 million. If true, these numbers can certainly affect the outcome of the presidential elections if not effectively prevented.

Second, there is the scenario of no-election, no-proclamation. The most realistic variant of this scenario is the prevention of voting in 15% or even less of the actual voters come election day. In a tight contest, this can effectively prevent the immediate proclamation of the winner in the presidential contest.

Allegedly, this will happen in the ARMM and other areas controlled by warlords or political dynasts. If stretched to the limit, it may even prevent the proclamation of the new president and vice-president–possibly to include the successors.

The extreme scenario is martial law declaration or even just a declaration of a state of emergency. This requires foisting a breakdown of peace and order on a nationwide scale or of national significance. The object supposedly is to sweep aside the elections and set up a caretaker government beyond June 30, 2010. This is a possible but remote scenario.

All the alternative scenarios may or may not be hatching. However, they offer the challenges to the conduct of a credible, fair and free May 2010 elections.

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