Death of Democracy?

Death of Democracy?


Electoral Violence: Death of Innocents

Two weeks ago, our entire nation was plunged into a nightmare of shock and disbelief upon hearing reports that almost sixty people had been slaughtered, their bodies tortured and defiled. As the news slowly trickled in, we learned that the victims were the contingent representing Buluan Vice-Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, who was planning to run in the 2010 Maguindanao gubernatorial elections. His female relatives were going to file his certificate of candidacy on his behalf, and were accompanied by 37 journalists and 2 lawyers.

This latest re-enactment of electoral violence occurred only six months away from the 2010 national elections, where thrice-elected and incumbent Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr. was reportedly grooming his son, Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr. to succeed him. It must be underscored that these are the same Ampatuans who are the Lakas-Kampi- CMD stalwarts in the region, and who had delivered the 12-0 sweep to Gloria Arroyo’s senatorial slate. And in old-fashioned quid pro quo, these are the same Ampatuans who were allowed to concentrate their power and wealth throughout the length of Arroyo’s regime, as evidenced by their vise-like hold over local politics, and backed by their private armies which had been legalized by Arroyo’s EO 546. The high-powered arms and the military vehicles discovered on the property of the Ampatuans only further strengthens the link between the Ampatuan warlords and Arroyo.

Proclamation 1959: Death of Truth

As the public outcry for justice intensified, Arroyo responded by declaring martial law over Maguindanao. In a complete turnabout, the once-sanctioned private army is now branded as a rebel group responsible for the closing down of government offices and judicial courts. In her report to Congress, Arroyo claims that these are the factual basis for declaring that an armed public uprising exists, which impelled her to put the region under martial law.

Our 1987 Philippine Constitution explicitly states that martial law can only be declared during an invasion or rebellion, when public safety requires it. The deletion of the phrase “or imminent danger” in the new Constitution meant that a mere threat of rebellion is not enough for the President to exercise this most dangerous power. We must remember that this phrase was deleted precisely because we vowed to never allow the abuse of this power, as when Marcos had used the “imminence” of rebellion as a ground when he declared martial law in 1972.

And while not a single bullet has been exchanged between the Ampatuan private army and the AFP, we are all too intensely aware that Arroyo’s Martial Law is not merely unconstitutional— it is also the greatest threat to the remaining democracy existing in our country today.

Eulogy to Human Rights

Ironically, we are presently commemorating the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10. The long list depicting the human rights situation in the Philippines grows bloodier, with the Maguindanao Massacre added to the numbers of human rights violations in the Philippines. We know too well that human rights abuses had been the State policy under Marcos’ martial law, and that Arroyo’s martial law will not be any different. The fact that there has been more extra-judicial killings under Arroyo’s term than that of former Presidents Aquino, Ramos and Estrada combined, is a grim testimony that she is the number one warlord in the country.

We commemorate this Human Rights Week by reiterating our call for justice for the Maguindanao Massacre victims and all victims of human rights violations. The International Day of Human Rights is a timely reminder that we should remain vigilant in protecting our democracy, and advancing our human rights. We call on all Iskolars ng Bayan to unite against tyranny, and ensure that justice and democracy prevail.

Uphold and Defend Human Rights!

Never again to Martial Law!

Oust GMA!