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Regime of Secrecy: Arroyo administration’s Latest Despotic Design

October 5, 2007

Here they ago again. The hideous dual personality of the Arroyo administration is again toting its ugly head. It seems that people under the skirt President Gloria Arroyo will never run out of devices and shrewd techniques in protecting their boss and in covering the dirty secrets of her government.

Gloria Arroyo’s latest mandate to the Armed Forces of the Philippines to take speedy action on cases of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances made the headlines last week. She made the order after her speech at the United Nations on September 29, urging Burma’s military junta to release the country’s pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and to “allow all interested parties to take full part in the effort to national reconciliation through peaceful and inclusive dialogue.”

Basking in the good praises of American businessmen, the President never let the rare opportunity pass to boost her worsening image here and abroad. She has to patch up her “bad girl” image after her rating plunged amid the NBN controversy, with only three in every ten adults were satisfied with her performance.

In her speech she advertised the Philippines as “the most democratic country in our region.” “We have no tolerance for human rights violations at home and abroad,” she said.

Very well said. But her call on the AFP to put an end to political killings and enforced disappearances could have been more belieavable if not for some paradoxes and inconsistensies in her new administrative order.

The timing is noteworthy when she issued Administrative Order 197, which contains the President’s directive ordering the AFP to protect human rights violations and adopt effective measures to avoid military abuses.

But here’s the flip-flop. While the President, who allegedly stole her position with the help of an election commissioner in May 2004, tried to parlay her U.N. moment into a big achievement, and her “democratic call” into a heroic legacy, a portion of the order appears to be out of tune.

A.O. 197 also directed the AFP and the Department of National Defense to draft a legislative proposal that would put protective “safeguards” in place against “disclosure of military secrets and undue interference in military operations inimical to national interest.”

“The DND/AFP shall draft legislation in consultation with the PLLO and Congress allies for safeguards against disclosures of military secrets and undue interference in military operations inimical to national security,” Mrs. Arroyo said in the AO.

She also ordered that the proposal should ensure that military operations would not be hampered or unncecessarily interrupted.

It can be gleaned from the tenor of the order that the President seeks to see a new law that would further tighten the lid on military secrets. It appears that her partially nullified Executive Order 464 that bars her men from appearing in any inquiry without her consent is still not enough to ensure her regime’s rule of secrecy.

Her latest edict seeks to counter the ongoing Senate hearing on the Hello, Garci controversy and the undying search for Jonas Burgos, espcially now that the Court of Appeals ordered the AFP provost marshal and the inspector general to release a copy of their report.

In my opinion, said order is especially made to counter the “ballistic” threat of the two cases, which, if totally extracted by the Senate, could forcibly open the regime’s Pandora’s box.

As then and now, the question remains the same: What is there to hide? Why is Mrs. Arroyo so fervent in keeping the secrets of her government? Her actions even add proof to the suspiscion that something is dead in her closet.

Perhaps, those secrets, if divulged, could spell end to this secretive administration. Lest we forget, all despotic and/or facsistic governments in the world subscribe to the code of secrecy to maintain their iron grip on power.

The Senate is becoming more persistent in linking Mrs. Arroyo to all of the cases presented before it, including the NBN controversy. Its power of inquiry has always been upheld by the Supreme Court and cannot be trampeled upon by any executive juggernaut.

The Hello, Garci controversy, without a doubt, has a list of military officials at its disposal. A.O. 197 now seeks to gag the President’s men in the AFP, especially those in the Intelligence, from revealing the secrets of the military(?), or more precisely, the secrets of Hello, Garci.

The Jonas Burgos case, on the other hand, also contains names of military officials in its list. If the motto for ongoing NBN hearing is “Follow the money,” here, the guiding principle should be “Follow the leader.” There is a possibility that the blood line will go as high as the highest military official in the land. Who knows?

If the Hello, Garci case threatens to reveal the “original sin” (or the sin of the Queen), the Burgos case also threatens to expose the “collateral sin” (or the sin of the generals in trying to protect their boss). The first, which pertains to the massive cheating in 2004 elections, is the mother of all crimes under the Arroyo regime, as it implicates a constitutional body (the Comelec) as the one that engineered Mrs. Arroyo’s phyrric victory with the help of the military, public officials, and private individuals.

The second would explain the AFP’s degree of determination and persistence in preserving the regime.

Without any thread of doubt, the birth A.O. 197 is also logically related to the Supreme Court’s issuance of the Writ of Amparo, which is “a remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty and security is violated or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity.”

“The writ shall cover extralegal killings and enforced disappearances or threats thereof,” the Court said.

The writing can now be seen on the wall. The Arroyo Administration has to contain all these counter-developments made by both the Senate and the Court.

The President and her cohorts, on one hand, use the law and seek refuge in the protective loopholes of the law to justify their actions and to cover the disgusting secrets of the administration. The Court and the Senate, on the other hand, have to find ways and means to uncover the government’s tightly sealed secrets.

Mrs. Arroyo has to tighten her iron grip on power by exploiting her mythical executive previlege. The more she used this so absurd power, the more she caused disservice to the Filipino people. While the high court recognizes the right of the president to use this power, she should also bear in mind that in this country, sovereignty always resides in the people, and all government authority emanates from them.

Common sense should tell us that in a republican state, the people possess the supreme right to information, and that any executive adventurism cannot deny them such right and authority. Since the term executive privilege has now become part of our political system, this power, for it to be valid and constitutional, must be exercised in good faith and only if necessary, and not to cover up corruption and official abuses and malpractices.

We should always remember that a transparent government is one of the hallmarks of a truly republican state.

2 Comments leave one →
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