Thursday, September 21, 2006


Imagine a country attended by thousands of political killings, involuntary disappearances, illegal arrests and harassments, where activist organizations and the media are threatened daily for exposing the truth, where electoral fraud, misuse of public funds, graft and corruption are rampant, where impunity and a complete disregard for the judiciary and the legislature exists, where arrogant military officers hold sway over civilian institutions and a self-serving Constitution is being rammed down the throats of the people by a repressive president. The scenes above do not only refer to the ‘new society’ under Pres. Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law, but to the ‘strong republic’ under Pres. Gloria Arroyo. Despite the 34 year difference between the two, the similarity is striking.

Proposed Constitution: Absolute Martial Law Powers to the President

CODAL expresses strong condemnation of the move to grant Pres. Gloria Arroyo absolute martial law powers through charter change, especially since Pres. Arroyo’s administration has been charged with gross human rights violations and intolerance with dissent since it came to power in 2001.

Thirty-fours years ago today, Pres. Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law on the ground of ‘imminent danger’ of rebellion. To prevent the president from using such amorphous ground again, the 1987 Constitution subsequently limited the grounds to declare martial law to rebellion and invasion. CODAL finds it abhorrent that the proposed Constitution seeks to reinstate ‘ imminent danger’ of rebellion as a ground to declare martial law, considering the penchant of Pres. Arroyo to consider all forms of criticism against her as destabilization and therefore a threat to national security.

Additionally, while Martial Law has a 60-day life span under the current Constitution subject to an extension only upon approval of Congress, the proposed charter deleted such an important legislative checks and balance mechanism. Furthermore, the power of the Supreme Court to look into the factual basis of a martial law declaration has also been deleted in the proposed Constitution, a return to the martial law experience where the Supreme Court remained powerless to check the abuses of Pres. Marcos. The proposed Constitution, by granting Pres. Arroyo absolute martial law powers unrestricted by legislative and judicial intervention, is not only a throwback to the Marcos martial law Constitution but also another serious threat to the rights and freedoms of the Filipino people.

The Philippines: A Garrison State with the revival of the Marcos Constitution

Despite the overthrow of the Marcos Regime in 1986, the specter of Martial Law continues to haunt the people under the Arroyo regime. With the rampant political killings, growing number of disappearances and escalating human rights violations, complemented by an abuse of power through Presidential Proclamation 1017, CPR and Executive Order 464, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has placed the whole nation virtually under military rule which she seeks to further institutionalize under a new Constitution.

Considering the escalating human rights abuses by the government forces and the military’s lack of respect to civilian institutions, the new Constitution will only formalize martial rule in the country and transform it into a garrison state effectively controlled by the Pres. Arroyo and her military supporters.

CODAL opposes the current move to change the Constitution because its MOTIVATION is not for the benefit of the people but the self-serving interest of Pres. Arroyo and public officials who want to stay in power until 2010 without the mandate of an election, because its CONTENT is anti-people as it formally opens up private lands, public utilities and our natural resources to foreign control and ownership and because the PROCESS employed is not consultative nor participatory as it is being rammed on the throats of the Filipino people though deceit, threats and bribery.

Solicitor General Must Not Participate in Oral Arguments

CODAL is further seriously concerned with the pronouncement of Solicitor General Eduardo Nachura that there is an adequate law to implement the people’s initiative of Sigaw ng Bayan. This turn-around by Solgen. Nachura is surprising since he once filed two bills proposing an initiative law when he was a congressman during the 11th and 12th Congress thereby recognizing the lack of an enabling law for a peoples initiative. CODAL is afraid that the declaration of the counsel for the Respondent favoring that of Petitioner Sigaw will threaten the credibility of the scheduled oral arguments before the Supreme Court. CODAL asks Solgen Nachura not to represent the respondent in this case and, like former Solicitor General Frank Chavez, inhibit himself from a representing a case he does not agree with.

Members of the Legal Profession must take an active stand

The most prominent place in hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in the greatest issues in life.

On the 34th commemoration of the declaration of Martial Law, CODAL calls on lawyers and law students to join the nation in condemning political and civil repression, denouncing human rights violations, opposing charter change in all its forms under the current Arroyo administration, and preempt the institutionalization of a dictatorship.

Uphold Civil Liberties and Human Rights! STOP THE KILLINGS! Oppose CHA-CHA!

Reference : Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares—Spokesperson
Date : 21 September 2006


Post a Comment

<< Home