Philippines in a State of Emergency

I got this in my email and I would just like to share it to you. I’ve edited some grammatical errors. Nothing less, nothing more.

“President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has done it again. As of this moment (writing this message), human rights violations are flying in the air, as if it is a norm. Or maybe, it is true for this government. The essence of EDSA has lost its true spirit. PGMA declared the “State of Emergency” as a sort of “last resort” to contain the rising demonstrations that is said to be committing seditious acts against the government.

But let me assert my view of this issue by testifying the accounts that led through this conflict, although I really cannot affirm that this is hundred percent accurate since I will try to recollect it from my memory. Early this morning, I watched the news and witnessed the formation of the military in the Malacañang Palace, mobilizing the troops for a possible coup d’état. The palace was surrounded by a number of cargo trucks and steel barriers coated with barbed wires. I was surprised to see it on TV and did not expect to see this. I said to my father, “Ano yan? Kudeta?” My father nodded. After a while, two high-ranking generals were confined at Camp Aguinaldo because of their withdrawal of support from the government. They were linked by the government as co-plotters to the alleged coup by the Magdalo group. The tension cooled off a bit, and while watching in the TV, the station I was watching interviewed officials both coming from the military and government. They said that the situation is under control. But the news anchors were not satisfied with the answers that they were getting, so they asked the question I have rephrased, “Sir, bakit po maraming sundalo ang nakabantay sa palasyo, at pati ang mga pulis ay guwardiyado ang kabuuan ng EDSA shrine kung napigilan nyo ang kudeta?” The official said something in this tone, “Hindi pa tapos, kasi mayroon din civilian counterpart ang kudeta na ito. Kailangan maging alerto.” I don�t remember very well both the question and answer of the interview, but those are similar to that effect. During the period of nine to ten in the morning, PGMA surfaced in the TV screens, assessing the current situation and criticizing those who attempt to remove her in office. The declaration of the “State of Emergency” was in effect that morning. But the attempted coup failed. Still, the status quo is still in effect.

Meanwhile, that same morning at the streets, the protesters have begun to form their ranks in different parts of Metro Manila. Many of them came from Quezon City, while others have already marched their way to the EDSA Shrine. At first, peace remained between the protesters, already at the front of the Shrine, and the police force. They were able to even stage a program, condemning the government of GMA. The crowd is getting denser. Different rally groups were arriving at the Shrine. The police tried to block the road where the bulk of the protesters will make their way. Then the following events ensued at a fast pace. The protesters, estimated to be 3000, marched into the EDSA Shrine. But on their way, a thick police and military brigade barricaded the road. The two camps met at the middle. Things became worse as the protesters were blocked and not allowed to pass. The police then became harsh, pushing and smashing the protesters with their shields and batons. The protesters retaliated by throwing with stones and thrusting the poles of their flags. Big rocks flied from both camps, injuring some of them. But at the end, the protesters were dispersed and isolated from each other. The police chased the protesters, pummeling those individuals they caught in the process. I even saw in the TV a person who was already at his knees, but a certain police wearing a black coat even pounded him into the ground. I was really shocked, and at the same time, sad at what I saw. Prof. Randy David from University of the Philippines and a leading figure in the first People Power was arrested together with other protest leaders. Their purpose for marching in the EDSA shrine is only to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the People Power. But what did the police accuse of them? They were thrown a case of Inciting to Sedition.

I am sad at what happened in the protest. On one hand, I can say that the strict military formation in the palace can be justified due to the attempted coup, if there was really an attempted coup. It is for the protection of the government and the sovereignty. But besides that issue, everything else is plain tyranny.

Even though I was not personally around during that incident, I felt the terror that the police and military have caused, especially to those who went there just to voice their sentiments. We saw the atrocities of the government, explicitly and soundly. The civil liberties that we have are being suppressed. As they have said, this is Democracy at its finest (sarcastically). I began questioning and pondering the circumstances that revolved early this morning. Was there really a coup attempt, or was there a deeper conspiracy to preempt the celebration today? Was there really a state of emergency? Why proclaim a state of emergency? Was it to safeguard the government and the people, or to prevent the people from voicing their disgust to the government? Why can�t the police and the military keep hold of themselves from inflicting pain into the civilians? Hindi ba kaya sila nabuo ay para pagsilbihan at protektahan ang mga sibilyan at ang ating mga karapatan? Even though the answers are just an inch away from our eyes, the government still tries to justify their oppressive acts by accusing the individuals who have the courage to act for the pursuance of truth and justice. When did a peaceful rally against the government become a crime? Putting the authority on the military and the police removes the power from the people, just like what had happened in the dispersion of the rallyists. The arrest of the protest leaders is reminiscent of the martial law, at the extreme circumstances.

There is an abuse in authority. According to Fr. Joaquin Bernas of Ateneo Law School, the government is now working like it is under martial law, since the acts used to promulgate the state of emergency are suppressive. Even the rights of Media to broadcast anti-government propagandas are being suppressed by the government, due to the protection of the interest of the people. And the worst part of it, the government can even overtake private media organizations at their will. What has happened to PGMA? The freedom of expression being concealed, the freedom of the press being removed, and the freedom to assemble being restricted are manifestations of the paranoia of the government, or should I say the growing greed in power of the administration. The EDSA I celebration, in my honest opinion, is a ghost that haunts PGMA. What I see is that the celebration can be used as a tool to arouse the sleeping patriotism of the Filipinos, and PGMA is afraid that the people will be provoked to stand up against her. By preventing areas or venues for the people to celebrate the People Power, she has successfully prevented the people from articulating their negative sentiments against her. But what has happened only stirred further the spirit of the people. If the trend of arresting known individuals and suppressing our freedom continues, then we could expect the turn of the tides.

Another point is about following the rule of law. How do we define acting in accordance to the constitution? Is it by always siding with the government? Is it by being silent for the abuses and the lies that are rampant in government? It is by being pathetic and timid in addressing concerns of the public? Or is it by allowing ourselves to be uneducated and be pathetic in issues that emanate from the very reasons for fighting against the government? For me, this is plain stupidity. Another lame excuse is being used by the government. Following the constitution doesn�t necessary follow that it is for the betterment of the society. Oh, wait I have committed a mistake. The government already violated the constitution. Does it mean that they have done that for the sake of the country? We know now that this is not the case.

Economy? Is our economy falling apart because of the rallies and protests? A destabilization act to cripple our economy? I don�t think so. The economy is growing amidst the unstable political situation. But it doesn�t necessarily mean that the political crisis will cease to exist because of the good performance of the economy. Like what political economists say, the economy rests on the political situation of the country. I know that the people in the Malacañang are afraid of the backslashes the crisis could inflict in the economy. But let�s face it, time will tell that those propagandas about good economy due to good governance of the government are actually mere fabrications to conceal the real problem. Poverty still exists, millions of people jobless and the high price of commodities are some of the current conditions that linger in our society. I know that other countries also face the same problem, but they are able to offset those problems.

I admit that I am not in the best and appropriate position to criticize and state those comments against the government and PGMA. I admit that I somehow lack the knowledge in order to make an objective analysis of the situation. I also admit that I may commit a grave mistake if I voice it aloud and clear for everyone to hear and understand this message. You may even criticize me for saying that I am just overacting and hallucinating in the present situation. But heck, should we wait for someone in the best position to say those things if the obvious is present? Should we look for concrete facts when the people in the streets arealready marching in the streets, defying and resisting the government? And should we remain blind and deaf for what is happening in our society? I for one say that the current political crisis should end here. The peak of the crisis must be achieved one way or another. If that time is not now, then the problem prolongs, enabling PGMA to amass more power for a lengthier stay in office.

But what�s next? Opposition leaders being arrested? A complete declaration of Martial Law? A coup d� d’état? Another People Power? No one really knows what will happen for sure. If GMA remains the president of the country after the crisis, then so be it. If GMA is removed from her office after the crisis, then so be it. What is our assurance that the country will be united and will move forward after the crisis? I hold nothing of that sort. But do you really believe that our political crisis will end in a stalemate until 2010? I for one do not think so. It will end in one way or another, with PGMA or without PGMA in office. ‘Nuff said.”

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