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Philippine Democracy Under Arroyo’s Petty Tyranny

The rampant human rights violation under the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo government and her penchant for issuing policies that have curtailed the freedom of speech and assembly have been likened to the tyranny that reigned over our country during the time of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
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Gloria Macapagal Arroyo & Imelda Marcos
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Philippine repression
Although one can not deny that Arroyo’s government is treading the path towards tyranny and authoritarian rule she differs from Marcos in that at least the late strongman openly acknowledged his tyranny by placing the country under a dictatorship by virtue of his declaration of martial law.

Herein lies the major difference between Arroyo and Marcos. Marcos was a dictator whose power does not emanate from the peoples sovereign will but from a proclamation giving all the powers of the state to himself, while Arroyo, on the other hand, is plunging the country towards tyranny while maintaining that she is doing it to protect sovereignty and democracy.

The hypocrisy or double standard of democracy under Arroyo can be clearly illustrated in her State of the Nation Address (SONA) saying that extra-judicial killings have no place under a democracy while lauding Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan - the man credited by human rights groups as the main perpetrator of the killings, and whose pronouncements in media shows an utter disregard for human rights – for his efforts in the war against the communist insurgency.

This hypocrisy can be seen in Arroyo’s insistence that she represents the people’s sovereign will when in fact her legitimacy has been in question ever since the Garci tapes, and when instead of heeding calls for her to step down from power she has done everything in her power to silence opposition and dissent.

Department of Justice Sec. Raul Gonzales and Arroyo’s minions in Malacanang have even defended her actions by asserting that the president’s policies like the E.O 464, the calibrated preemptive response policy, and proclamation 1017 were issued to defend the state and democracy from the attacks of “subversive” elements; a statement that the Supreme Court would not agree with as seen in its decision declaring such policies unconstitutional.

If by subversion we mean an act that undermines the rule of law and the duly constituted state or civilian authority, then it is Arroyo and her minions who are guilty of this act by continuing to subvert democratic processes and curtailing constitutionally guaranteed liberties. If by terrorism we mean acts that endangers the people’s security and threatens political stability, then it is Arroyo and her favorite, Maj. Gen. Palparan who are guilty of terrorism by perpetrating a rule of terror in the countryside that further sows the seeds of political unrest and instability.

Marcos was a dictator but at least Proclamation 1081 made sure that we understood that he was one. Now we have a president trying to make us believe that her government’s tyranny is for the good of democracy. We would like to remind Mrs. Arroyo that “the rule of law” does not mean the arbitrary use of government power, and that democracy only becomes a true democracy if it is based on the respect for human rights.


End Impunity!

Barely a week has passed after the Supreme Court led Summit on Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances were held, the military through Army Chief Lt. Gen. Romeo Tolentino has once gain proven their incapacity to respect, protect, and uphold human rights.

The statement made by Lt. Gen. Tolentino about Jonas Burgos as being a member of the New peoples Army speaks volumes of the military's wanton disregard for democratic processes and human rights. The statement also sends a chilling signal that anyone who is suspected of being a Leftist sympathizer or of belonging to the Left is fair game and as such any punitive action against them is justifiable. Such "militaristic" mindset of military men like Lt. Gen. Tolentino is the greatest stumbling block to the peace process, and in fact feeds the growing culture of impunity and lays the foundation for establishing coercive and repressive structures and policies that violates human rights.

Article 13 of Protocol II of the Geneva Convention clearly states that civilians should not be made objects of an attack. The same protection is likewise reiterated in the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

By all accounts Jonas Burgos was not an armed combatant. The only weapon that he carried was the ideas he shared with the farmers. Ideas that far from being subversive or revolutionary was more practical in nature - alternative farming techniques that would help them become more productive and their agricultural methods sustainable. And yet in spite of his peaceful ways, Burgos did not escape the violence that seems to encroach on all of those who are for social reforms and transformation. Violence that is being constantly fed by the anti-communist hysteria of the military, and the militarist thinking of Lt. Gen. Tolentino and other officers of our armed forces.

We believe that until the military institution purge itself of men like Lt. Gen. Tolentino, and until the Arroyo government clearly address the concerns of victims of human rights by institutionalizing policies and measures that will strengthen civilian authority and civil liberties, and punish the perpetrators of human rights violations, the killings will continue and men like Lt. Gen. Tolentino will have a field day taking potshots at the liberties and rights of people like Jonas Burgos.


TFDP to Arroyo: Stop making empty promises!

The SONA of Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will be delivered today in a context wherein the families of victims, like the mother of Jonas Burgos, are still seeking for truth and justice, human rights violations are committed with impunity, and where repressive laws like the Human Security Act of 2007 has been put in place.

No amount of promises can erase the fact that the Arroyo administration is guilty of committing human rights violations either through commission and omission. The rise of extra-judicial killings, torture, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations by both state and non-state actors shows either the inability or unwillingness of the Arroyo government to address these issues. The failure also of the Arroyo government to address the growing problem of poverty and underdevelopment proves that in spite of the grandiose pronouncements of her past SONA’s the government has still failed to put into place measures and mechanisms that would ensure the progressive realization of economic, social and cultural rights.

The veracity of Arroyo’s pronouncement during this SONA, and her resolved to truly deliver on her promises should be measured based on the standards of human rights. Pres. Arroyo’s SONA must first and foremost consider the interest of the people to be the core of her policies, and that the measures that will be instituted are truly reflective of the government’s obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights.

In order to do this we call on the Arroyo government to implement within the first 100 days after her SONA speech the following measures:

1. Declare as priority legislation bills protecting human rights such as the Anti-Torture bill, Anti-enforced Disappearance bill, and the Marcos Compensation Bill
2. Work on the implementation of the proposals made by Prof. Philip Alston, the European Union, and the Supreme Court Summit in relation to the issue of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.
3. Set doable and measurable targets that will show government’s commitment to progressively realize the right to food, housing, health, and other economic, social and cultural rights.

It is sad and frustrating to note that every SONA the people have not been at the center of whatever the Arroyo government claims as progress in the Philippines. This SONA instead of the usual rhetoric a rights based approach to development and governance, where the people are participants, actors and beneficiaries of development, is an imperative in our country today.


Defend Our Life, Protect Our Dignity

"Woe to those who enact unjust statutes and who write oppressive decrees, depriving the poor of justice, robbing the weakest of my people of their rights." (Isaiah 10:1)
Inspired by the leaders of the Catholic Church pastoral exhortation to build a society more human, more worthy of the human person, we gathered today to discuss, contemplate, and discern the different provisions of the Human Security Act of 2007 (HSA) otherwise known as the Anti-Terror Law, the social and political implication of its implementation, and its moral dimension based on the framework of upholding human dignity and protecting human rights.

We believe that it is indeed part of government’s responsibility to protect its citizens against acts that could endanger life and human security, however we are alarmed that the provisions of the HSA clearly provides the legal mantle that would further violate constitutionally guaranteed rights. Discerning on the provisions of the HSA, we are deeply troubled that the law violates the right to due process by allowing the arrest of suspected terrorists even without the virtue of a warrant or the preconditions for a warrantless arrest. The law also violates the right to privacy and the right to be secure in their persons by institutionalizing “terrorist profiling”, surveillance and interception of private communications. The law also expands the 36 hour detention period which multiplies the risk of torture and other forms of human rights violations being committed to suspects under custody.

We feel that instead of building community and strengthening the principle of solidarity the HSA will only exacerbate the already deteriorating state of human rights in the country, feed the continued existence of a coercive environment and growing culture of impunity, and further the political agenda and ambition of one small group by using the law to curtail any opposition against the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

As religious and as members of the lay faithful we must work for the common good by participating directly in social, economic, and political affairs so as to transform society into one wherein the dignity of the human person is respected, protected, and fulfilled. And as such it is our moral obligation to take a firm, but enlightened stand against the provisions of the HSA that violates and curtail human rights.

In the words of our Church leaders “when human authority goes beyond the limits willed by God, it makes itself a deity and demands absolute submission; it becomes the Beast of the Apocalypse, an image of the power of the imperial persecutor.” We must never allow this to happen. Peace and justice must prevail.

We embrace the cry and call of the marginalized by asserting that the “Human Security Act” will worsen extra-judicial killings, culture of death, and human rights violations. At present, urban militarization includes both deployment of military troops in urban poor communities with demolition threat and deployment of military personnel in schools and universities to promote this so-called “Anti-Terrorism Law.” In the rural areas, militarization and the culture of violence and death bring untold suffering to our poor brothers and sisters. It is from their side, it is from their bosom that we, religious and lay faithful cry out to the heavens and say:


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An inglorious peace is better than a dishonorable war.
-- Mark Twain
Source: "Glances at History" (suppressed)

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