I’m sure all of you are now aware of the arrival of the latest addition to our ever-growing Pinoy family. Welcome PP Ten Seventeen!
Name: Presidential Proclamation 1017
Nickname: SOE (State of Emergency)
Ninang: Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
Born: Feb. 24, 2006
Died: March 3, 2006
Resurrected: March 3, 2006
Sibling: General Order no. 5
In case it slipped your mind, or you are too young to remember, PP 1017 traces its lineage to another (in)famous proclamation.
Parent: PP 1081
Nickname: Martial Law
Ninong: Ferdinand Marcos
Born: Sept. 21, 1972
Lived for: 14 years
Reincarnated: Feb. 24, 2006
Both proclamations, though 34 years apart, have an uncanny resemblance in the way they were written. I am not a lawyer nor a lawmaker so I won’t delve into the art of scripting proclamations. What’s more relevant is the similarity of justifications. Both cite leftist threat – or a leftist led conspiracy – as the justification; both cite the threat to the economy, and both single out media as contributing to the problem.
My father must be turning in his grave. He was one of the very first political detainees after the Writ of Habeas Corpus was suspended in 1971. He remained, until the end, suspicious of Glue-ria (another term of endearment for GMA alluding to her cling-on presidency). I remember him warning that it will happen again, Martial law. I always kidded him that it won’t. Nobody would be that foolish.
Guess I have to eat my words. “Dit kan toch niet?” my muddled Dutch-English-Pinoy brain shouted as I follow the developments in the papers. And yet, it has happened and continues to evolve. Many people will rise in defense of Glue-ria and say that PP 1017 was just a declaration of a state of emergency. Martial Law was very different. PP 1081 lived for 14 years, while PP 1017 was just recently revoked.
Which leads me to my point. Although many people condemn PP 1017, a lot find it hard to detect its Marcosian flavor – and this because of the way it was served. Bite-size, easy to digest, with lots of sauce to cover-up the rotten taste.
Take the revocation of PP 1017: after meticulous investigation and research, GMA decided that the situation was stable enough to lift it. She conveniently forgot to mention that the media, at home and abroad, condemned the act; and the opposition forces found a stronger reason to unite. The way she said and did it was as if she was doing the country a favor. As if we should be thankful for her for finally lifting an oppressive law which she herself has installed in the first place. She actually declared de facto Martial Law in the guise of emergency rule. And although temporary, this was still oppression by itself.
But that’s where she’s really good in: in serving these bite-size oppressions. For indeed, now you can’t say that she’s holding on to absolute power, because PP 1017 is a thing of the past. This is, however, farthest from the truth. When PP 1017 was lifted, the country did not return to the status quo. PP 1017 was resurrected the moment it died. It came back to haunt us in many forms; one of them, the ‘guidelines’ to media.
The Philippine Press is still under a state of national emergency although the soldiers and police on the premises of the Daily Tribune and other TV networks have been withdrawn. GMA calls for ‘responsible journalism’ and to help the journalists to be responsible, she has issued some guidelines and warned against their breach. Broadcasts of “rebellious, terrorist propaganda” and statements that “propose or incite treason, rebellion or sedition” are still consistently being monitored by the National Telecommunications Commission. The freedom to be critical and express ones opposition, already crippled in the past, is now completely being reduced to nothing. When is a statement rebellious or seditious — when it is critical of the present leadership or when it proposes alternatives? When somebody reminds the President not to lie, not to cheat and not to steal -– is this terrorist propaganda?
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”, may be a statement popularized during the French Enlightenment, but it still hasn’t lost its relevance in the light of today’s current censorship of the Philippine Press. Especially since GMA has threatened that she would not hesitate to impose emergency measures again if necessary. There it is again: the bite-size approach. Don’t proclaim absolute control; just dangle the prospect of curtailing freedoms over the people’s heads.
After giving us a taste of PP 1017, she’s ready to serve us another bite. Question is: will you swallow it or spit it out?
If you were to ask the middle class, they would rather swallow these bite-size oppressions, because there is no other better alternative. At least, this claim is what is currently being circulated in the internet. The silent majority, the middle-class, is angry and refuses to flow with the waves of opposition if no credible alternative is available. Better GMA than the bleeding heart leftists, Tita Cory and the power-hungry military.
I understand the anger and the frustration. I’ve heard it from many. I’ve felt it myself. People are tired and just want to move on pass the accusations and critiques. But why feel anger towards the protesters and not at GMA? Why get upset over demonstrations and attempts of resurrecting People Power but not at the thought of a country cheated of their right to choose their leaders? Because there is no better alternative?
I disagree. Truth is always the better alternative than lies. And lies are that which stoke the flames of opposition to GMA. It was she who lied and broke her oath not to run again even as she swore this on the grave of Jose Rizal. It was she who cheated in the elections and tried to pass that deed off as an impropriety or “lapse in judgment”.
So to say that GMA is the better alternative is the greatest lie of all. It is, by itself, oppression.
Let us have the truth, even if it is sometimes bitter and hard to swallow. I assure you, it will always taste better than any bite-size oppression.