Katipunero: a member of the Kataastaasang Kagalanggalangang Katipunan ng Pilipinas, a revolutionary group of the 1800s; a Filipino who continues to fight unjust and corrupt structures in society.

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Location: Loyola House of Studies, Quezon City, Philippines

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Preliminary Guidelines for the Present Situation of “National Emergency”

A. The Situation:

There seem to be groups in the military who have seriously been engaged in attempts to seize state power. Part of the impetus for these coup plots appears to be legitimate grievances concerning the present state of the military under the present administration. But it does not seem that the ventilation of these grievances is the only agenda of the present movements among these groups. There also appears to be a genuine intent to take political control of the country. Transitional juntas, with civilians participating, appear to be envisioned. Some civilians, chiefly politicians and organized political groups, seem to know about these plans. Some, convinced that all constitutional means to oust the present administration have been exhausted, support these attempts.

There appears to be a crucial difference between the events of EDSA 1986 and the present. EDSA was a civilian-led initiative against dictatorship that received support from the military. What we are witnessing these days is quite different: a military-led effort seeking civilian support and legitimation.

The response of the government is the declaration of a state of National Emergency, through Proclamation No. 1017. The column of Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J., in today’s Philippines Daily Inquirer, explains the constitutional basis for and scope of emergency powers in the Proclamation. But Fr. Bernas also points to the disturbing inclusion of what seem to be martial law powers in the President’s declaration, particularly in its appeal to Article XII, Section 17 of the Constitution, concerning the temporary takeover of privately owned businesses and utilities, a move that seems aimed at government control of the press and media.

B. Some Guidelines:

1. The crisis of political legitimacy and the crying need for reform of the military are real. Nonetheless, any attempt by factions in the military to seize state power, however well motivated, cannot be supported. Such attempts overstep the noble task of the military in a democracy. The consequences of such actions that threaten civilian supremacy over the military will be extremely difficult to reverse and would be seriously harmful for the country’s future. The experience of countries in which a politicized military has taken state power—what we often refer to as “banana republics”—gives sobering illustrations of these consequences. Once having captured the state, military forces have not given up power easily. A cycle of constant struggles for state control among military elements begins, to the detriment of political stability, democratic freedoms and national development.

Democracy demands the rule of civilians who are legitimately chosen from and by the people, and not simply kept in power by military might. It is important to recall the principle articulated by the CBCP in its pastoral statement of January 2006: actions that “condone violence or counter-constitutional means in resolving our present crisis” are not acceptable, especially since they “would only bring about new forms of injustice, hardships, and greater harm in the future.”

2. The serious threat to democratic freedoms involved in Proclamation No. 1017 should be exposed, questioned, and resisted. Even constitutionally mandated emergency powers can be abused if they are exercised disproportionately, to the point of undermining basic rights. It is alarming that, even now, there seem to be indications of this abuse, such as the arrest of civilians without clear bases and charges. This is a serious and unacceptable violation of civil and political rights.

Furthermore, the present administration’s actions towards controlling the media must be resisted. Not only are these moves of questionable constitutionality, but state takeover of media seems morally unjustified, as such a measure would violate the freedom of expression which is a fundamental tenet of democracy.

  1. We must not be naïve and uncritical. Many groups have taken and will continue to take advantage of the present confusion. We, especially religious and Church groups, must be wary about which groups we identify with, lest we indirectly legitimate and support antidemocratic groups with vested interests. The question of the future governance of the country, should the present administration collapse, is not a matter of indifference, but a serious moral consideration. Who assumes power, with what mandate and what agenda, are questions that we must seek answers to from those who would solicit our support.
  1. The present administration’s actions to frustrate legitimate constitutional means of reform and accountability must be held largely responsible for the present crisis. Government’s constant attempts to evade accountability and true reform have made the military solution seem attractive and inevitable to some.

Thus, it is necessary that the following be addressed with greater urgency: the search for truth on the many controversies of the recent past; the revamp of COMELEC and other necessary electoral reforms; reforms in the military; and the continuing search for solutions to the problems of poverty and inequality that beset most of our people.

C. Some Immediate Courses of Action:

In this situation, the following are appropriate immediate courses of action:

· Gatherings of prayer for peace and a non-violent resolution of the crisis;

· Gatherings to exchange reliable information, and to discern collectively in the light of emerging developments;

· Expressions and actions of protest against the curtailments of democratic freedoms in Proclamation No. 1017.

Monday, February 27, 2006

A Call to Commit to the Spirit of EDSA 1

As we celebrate the 20th Anniversary of EDSA 1, we recall how we, as one nation, held our heads up high before the rest of the world with the clear message that a revolution need not be violent. And proud we were when many nations followed suit, guided by the principles and values upheld at the very first EDSA Revolution.

Ironically, in these times of socio-political unrest and uncertainty, the spirit of EDSA 1 is threatened by dark forces demanding a swift resolution to the national crisis. It is this context that we at SIMBAHANG LINGKOD NG BAYAN, call on the Filipino people to renew their commitment to the spirit of active non-violence that guided the very first EDSA Revolution.

We particularly uphold the following:

1.. That we go through this crisis within the parameters set by our constitution. We reject the unconstitutional acts of military adventurist and other parties seeking to overthrow the government through violence.

2.. That we vigorously and conscientiously pursue the call of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines to search for the truth. We call on the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government to lead the nation in this search by exhausting all constitutional alternatives in an impartial and expeditious manner. We entreat our leaders to open more avenues for the peaceful resolution of the national crisis instead of shutting off all constitutional options we can take.

The spirit of the times denies us the peace and unity we have always yearned for. There are no easy solutions to our predicament. But we are not about to give up as a nation. We continue to pursue the elusive truth because we believe that the Spirit of EDSA 1 can be and should be the spirit of the times.

As we re-live the spirit of EDSA 1, let us rekindle our commitment to social change and renewal through active non-violence.

Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan

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