STATEMENT OF THE UP FACULTY OF LAW ON PROCLAMATION 1017 AND GENERAL ORDER 5
Last Friday, February 24, 2006, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Presidential Proclamation 1017, declaring a state of national emergency. Immediately after, she issued General Order No. 5, directing the chiefs of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to “immediately carry out necessary and appropriate actions and measures to suppress and prevent acts of terrorism and lawless violence.”
Since then, these two issuances have been used to justify the imposition of severe limitations on—and in certain instances the outright denial of—civil liberties guaranteed and protected under the Bill of Rights, including the freedoms of speech, expression, of the press, and public assembly. Ostensibly on the strength of Proclamation 1017 and General Order 5, a general ban on rallies has been imposed, the PNP has raided one newspaper and threatens to take over other media outfits which “fail to conform to government standards,” and numerous persons, including several members of Congress, have been arrested without warrant.
We, the faculty of the University of the Philippines College of Law, speaking with one voice, condemn in the strongest possible terms this brazen assault on essential freedoms. We firmly and unequivocally take the position that Proclamation 1017 and General Order 5, and the manner in which they are being applied by the Executive, consitute an unconstitutional infringement on civil liberties.
We refuse to accept the half-hearted excuse, put forth by some officials in the Arroyo administration, that the two issuances were “not intended” to violate the Bill of Rights. The simple and undeniable fact is that Proclamation 1017 and General Order 5 have been utilized by the PNP and other executive organs to mount a vigorous and unrelenting campaign against perceived critics of the administration, in full and flagrant disregard of the protections enshrined in the Bill of Rights as well as the legal rules of procedure. Equally undeniable is that the President has sanctioned, or at the very least tacitly approved, these actions undertaken by her subordinates, all of whom are fully within her control.
The indisputable truth is that the violation of the Bill of Rights done pursuant to Proclamation 1017 and General Order 5 are acts of the President.
It must be emphasized that nothing in the Constitution can authorize the suspension of the Bill of Rights. Even under a declared state of martial law, which the Arroyo administration repeatedly insists this is not, the Bill of Rights remains fully operative. Thus, the suppression of free speech, the muzzling of the free press, and the prohibition on public assembly sanctioned by the two issuances cannot be construed as anything other than clearly and unequivocally unconstitutional.
Our civil liberties, particularly the freedom of speech and public assembly are indispensable to our democracy. We cannot allow them to be arbitrarily suppressed. We therefore call for the immediate and unconditional rescission of Proclamation 1017 and General Order 5.
CALL OF THE TIMES
Proclamation 1017 (Proc. 1017) was issued on February 24 2006. Since then, our collective shock was overtaken by a series of state actions that run counter to our reasonable expectations as citizens of a democratic republic: violent dispersals of, and ban against public assemblies; denial of due process; the raid on the Tribune offices and police presence in media establishments; the threat of arrest against members of the House. Proc. 1017, and public officers’ acts pursuant to it, are clearly UNCONSTITUTIONAL. They trespass into a territory where they are most unwelcome – the sphere of civil rights and liberties which no less than the constitution deems hollowed ground. Proc. 1017 vests upon the President a plethora of powers akin to those enjoyed by Marcos during Martial Law. It is an issuance that, in substance and in operation, unabashedly tramples upon our protected freedoms. We believe that we have to contend against Proc. 1017 on the basis of actual consequences that it has already effected in society. The fact that it was couched in a language that is harmless by constitutional standards does not make it less reprehensible. Constitutional defect cannot be rectified by evasive phraseology. Consenting to bring the debate to the level of semantics is paying homage to the skewed legal minds behind the President, who had no qualms exploiting the gray areas of the constitution to serve unprincipled ends. We will not give them that satisfaction.
We laud the emphatic condemnation issued by the Diliman University Council and the College of Law Faculty against Proc. 1017, as well as the vigorous efforts of our professors to provide guidance and assistance to individual victims and the public in general. It is unfortunate, however, that the student body of our college has not shown the same convergence of principles and unity of action in response to this issue. Whereas students of other colleges in UP have lost no time asserting their convictions through varied means, we have not gone beyond discussion – those of the diffused and unconsolidated variety at that. Whereas student councils, departments, and organizations converged by the hundreds in Quezon Hall yesterday to declare UP as a Sanctuary of Civil Liberties, our student body was conspicuously absent. This is not a question of leadership. Ideally, our elected student government officers should provide venues and spearhead actions geared towards the aggregation and articulation of our sentiments. And yet there is no impediment to our taking the initiative in fostering unity among ourselves and adding our collective voice to the countless others already raging outside Malcolm Hall. We have a bottomless reservoir of talented and creative minds. We have a wide and open political space that our university has already claimed and secured. We are leaders in our own right. There is no reason why our potential should not be unleashed – effectively and expeditiously – through concerted action.
THE CALL is to speak – loudly, clearly, courageously – for ourselves and in behalf of those who cannot. If we believe that Proc. 1017 is unconstitutional, we should lead our fellow students on saying so without reservations or delay. We owe it to the students of UP, our faculty, and the College of Law to herald our presence in the university and national scene. The majesty of the law – what it is, what it means, what it stands for – is not confined in the classroom. It also thrives in the heart of society and pulsates through the veins of the body politic. There are times when the intellect must be enriched, and times when relevance must be asserted. There is no conflict between the two endeavors, if we believe in learning the law in the Grand Manner.
THE CALL is to learn FROM and WITH the people, to LIVE the days and not simply LIVE THROUGH them, and to be OBJECTS, not mere ACCESSORIES, of history. We must act NOW.
UP Law Class 2009B
SUPPORT THE BLACK-AND-RED RIBBON CAMPAIGN.
Through BLACK we mourn the death of civil liberties;
through RED we invoke the spirit of resistance and militancy that will revive it.