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Posts Tagged ‘martial rule’

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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Martial law in Maguindanao is due to be lifted in under one hour from now. The reason given by the National Security Council is that it already accomplished its mission of bringing back civilian authority, defeating the Maguindanao “rebels,” and arresting the Ampatuan clan perpetrators of the Maguindanao massacre.

Well and good, bu this has still to be taken with a grain of salt. Congress was due to vote on the declaration of martial law on December 15 and word is that it will be revoked for lack of factual and constitutional basis. Likewise, the Supreme Court is about to start hearing arguments against it and there are indications it will also issue an unfavorable decisions against it.

It is also to be noted that the declaration of martial law–though dividing the public for sometime–found no popular support even among those who supported the search for justice for the Maguindanao massacre victims. Senator Miriam Defensor’s expose of an extended martial law leaves no room to maneuver for any alleged plotter.

So, what exactly did martial law declaration accomplished? To cite one, it broke the psychological barrier that stemmed from the bad experience of martial law under the Marcos dictatorship and paves the way for a repeat performance in the future. Not that it would succeed–the popular condemnation it got from a broad range of the political spectrum means it is a very difficult proposition to sell.

The lifting, by no means, will buy popularity for administration candidates. It actually will make life more difficult for them as people and the voters will become more wary of the way administration people wields power.

It is a step backward for them. However, the future is another thing.

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The declaration of martial law in the province of Maguindanao have more implications than its own objectives. Ostensibly, the declaration aims to preempt a rebellion from the Ampatuan clan, facilitate the arrest or capture of the perpetrators of the Maguindanao massacre, and reestablish civilian authority in the province.

The argument has been made that the declaration of martial law can achieve these objectives. Counter-arguments have also been put forward that the same objectives can be achieved by the use of normal means available to state authorities, even the declaration of a state of emergency.

Martial law or not, the key measurement of the appropriateness of the method used is that it achieves the objectives with the least collateral damage and with no additional or subsequent problems. In this, the martial law approach fails miserably.

First, there is as yet no rebellion and therefore no justification for martial law. What is there is a specious argument of a threatening rebellion (expressly incised out by the 1987 constitution from the previous constitutions). There is simply no factual basis for the declaration of martial law.

Second, for the sake of argument, if ever martial law is declared in relation to the Maguindanao massacre, it should have been done immediately after the incident, when the state authorities have actually attempted to arrest the Ampatuans and other perpetrators and their efforts are met with armed resistance. Conceivably, martial law could have been resorted then if the local civilian authorities–including the local officials and police–either belong to the Ampatuan clan or else their supporters and therefore these fail to perform their duties;  the perpetrators are protected by armed means; and the local population is under a state of terror.

Doing this after a period of delay and with no evident escalation of the situation opens to speculations of other objectives, particularly when the conditions for the declaration of martial law are not met.

There is fear that the declaration of martial law may be extended by an Arroyo-influenced joint Congress session to more than the 60 days allowed by the Constitution to possibly include the election day itself and thus possibly influence the outcome of the elections in ARMM and even the national elections. There is also fear that the joint session itself can lead to the resurrection of the Charter change initiative. The worst fear is the possible no-elections because of the breakdown of law and order in ARMM and even on the nationwide scale.

The declaration of martial law will not contribute much to the solution of the Maguindanao massacre. It may even lead to problems of the nation. It is a gambit–which if not opposed vigorously–can well lead to a sharp turn against Philippine democracy. The closest vigilance is therefore called for even as the nation does not let go of the search for justice to the victims of the Maguindanao massacre.

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Martial law was declared, through Proclamation 1959, this morning, December 5, 2009, in Maguindanao province, except for some areas covered by the ceasefire with the MILF. The reason, according to Executive Secretary Ermita is because “heavily armed groups in the province of Maguindanao have established positions to resist government troops, thereby depriving the executive of its powers and prerogatives to enforce the laws of the land and to maintain public order and safety.” Subsequently, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Victor Ibrado announced that joint police and military teams have arrested Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his son, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan.

It is curious that it is Ermita–not the President nor her official spokesperson–who disclosed the proclamation to the public. It is curiouser that senior civilian and military officials on the ground and involved in the Maguindanao crisis were not aware of the proclamation. For the first time, the name of the National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales comes up when reporters asked Secretary Ronaldo Puno if there is martial law proclaimed. “Ask Bert Gonzales,” he said.

Martial law is certainly the more viable option compared to the declaration of a state of emergency since the latter allows the Ampatuans–who held sway over the civilian authority in Maguindanao and up to the ARMM level–to stay and even maintain control over their domains. Martial law will allow the national authority to reassert power in Maguindanao and sweep away the Ampatuan reign of terror.

While this may be an immediate effect of martial law, it is also a problematic solution. If it is a sham or a diversionary tactic to shield or distance the president from her responsibility in the massacre, it may not really do away completely with the Ampatuan’s political hold on Maguindanao and may open–in the future–a fiercer contest among the Maguindanao’s clans. If it becomes a real solution, the Ampatuans may resort to retaliatory political tactics that will damage much of the president’s and the administration’s electoral chances.

There is a side to the proclamation that needs constant monitoring. Most of the ingredients for a Maguindanao massacre or other forms of political terrorism exist in other warlord areas in the country–fierce political dynastic contests, presence of armed groups, and relative breakdown of nonpartisan governmental and military chain of command. If these types of incident occur in these areas, an argument can be made to implement martial law or similar emergency measures on a nationwide scale. Then we may truly have a possible no-election scenario.

The declaration of martial law in Maguindanao–done by a small but influential group in Malacañang–may not be an endgame but an opening bid in a volatile electoral situation.

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A political balloon has been flown and everybody should shoot it down–promptly and decisively. The headline story in the Philippine Star disclosed a statement by deputy  presidential spokesperson Anthony Golez that Malacañang contemplates extending an already questionable declaration of a nationwide state of calamity for at least one year.

There are quite a few governance implications in declaring a nationwide state of calamity, particulary for at least one year. First, it allows the national and local governments throughout the country–including those in areas without calamity–to draw from their calamity and contingency funds. Second, it allows the executive department, particularly the President, to have an excuse to transfer funds from other budgeted items and funds under her care (virtually most of the national budget plus non-budget funds) to the calamity funds. Third, it allows the executive department, local governments, and other government agencies involved in relief and rehabilitation to shortcut procurement rules and anti-corruption measures–all in the name of past, present, and future disasters. Fourth, the declaration allows the use of the military and police in enforcing a more stringent “peace and order”, such as the “forced evacuation” of people from places designated as areas prone to natural and man-made disasters (example: rebel-influenced barangays).  Fifth, in an election period, the temptation is simply too great to use the easily-accessed calamity funds for electioneering purposes. Fifth, a year is beyond June 30, 2010: is there something that Malacañang knows that we don’t?

The freeing of so much money for non-existent calamities have an implication for the 2010 elections. Is the administration panicking in not having a saleable presidential candidate? Or, is it because of the strong possibility that an unsympathetic Noynoy Aquino may well win the presidential contest and prove the vulnerability of the sandcastle that is the GMA’s political machine?

The 2010 elections are right there in the front of the minds of all incumbent GMA allies who will be running. The calamity funds will be seen by them as manna from Malacañang. Thus, GMA hopes to try to rally the traditional politicians behind her preferred presidential candidate.

The unfettered declaration of a state of calamity is a political decision, not a governance decision. Somebody is still wishing mightily to turn the Ondoy disaster into a political goldmine.

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