POSTSCRIPT / March 9, 2006 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Fire-breathing solons suddenly afraid of cops?

PATINTERO: The impasse between arresting policemen and radical congressmen hiding from the officers is no longer funny. This nauseating political patintero boils down to three points:

  1. If the police have the goods on the lawmakers, they should secure warrants immediately and arrest them pronto. The police should not resort to warrantless arrests since, according to them, they have evidence to justify issuance of court arrest orders.
  2. The congressmen, on the other hand, should not hide and cower in fear. That is bad form. They should face the charges with heads high. Having seen them shouting and raising fists in street rallies, I thought they were brave, fire-breathing revolutionaries.
  3. Speaker Jose de Venecia must tell his wards to grow up.

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SPLIT STANDARDS: The Speaker should not coddle the whimpering congressmen. Considering the millions we lavish on each lawmaker, he/she must show a backbone. Congressmen should stop being juvenile and hiding under a Venecian skirt.

And why are police officers afraid to touch congressmen, but have no qualms about roughing up and arresting ordinary taxpayers? Why the compartmentalized treatment?

At this point, let us erase the misconception that congressmen (and senators) are immune from arrest. That immunity is not all-encompassing. It requires two conditions: (1) Congress must be in session, and (2) the offense imputed is punishable by a prison term of not more than six years.

Section 11 of Article VI (The Legislative Department) of the Constitution says: “A Senator or Member of the House of Representatives shall, in all offenses punishable by not more than six years imprisonment, be privileged from arrest while the Congress is in session. No Member shall be questioned nor be held liable in any other place for any speech or debate in the Congress or in any committee thereof.”

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LEADING QUERY: Well-meaning friends advised me that I might be mistaken for a Malacanang lackey if I continue to publish the comments of Postscript readers, most of whom happen to express support for President Gloria Arroyo’s handling of the security situation.

But what can I do? I asked my readers a question impressed with public interest and they responded. Do I now suppress their comments just to protect myself from possible criticism?

The original question asked them was “Why did President Arroyo issue Proclamation 1017 at the risk of validating the impression that we have an unstable government in a divided country led by someone who is still trying to win a mandate?”

A tabulation of readers’ responses showed that eight out of every 10 were sympathetic to Ms Arroyo on her declaring recently a state of national emergency.

One reader said not only was my question loaded against President Arroyo but that the reasons I proffered tended to influence readers into disapproving the President’s action and questioning her motives.

Despite what lawyers might say was my “leading question,” Postscript readers ignored the reasons suggested and gave their own.

Will I now prevent the airing of their sentiments just so I do not get embarrassed or be mistaken for a tool of Malacanang?

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MORE COMMENTS: Here, therefore, are more comments from respondents. I took the liberty of boiling them to fit the limited space. In choosing which ones to use, I used my editorial discretion.

Why did President Arroyo issue Proclamation 1017 declaring a state of national emergency?

Rocky Nuyda, yahoo — If you are president and your gov’t is about to be toppled and you don’t issue any emergency proclamation, and you are in fact replaced, you are stupid! If you hesitate because of fear of criticism, you are even more stupid. If a bigger crisis comes and you don’t have an emergency response mechanism in place, then you are doubly stupid.

Ed Z. Amorozo, Calgary, Alberta, Canada — GMA is just a typical Pinoy politician… kapit tuko. My answer, therefore, is “all of the above” reasons.

Aurora Riel, North Carolina, US — (All of the above), plus — she dreaded the YOUng-Magdalo call for unity to oust her. How ironic it would be if her calibration contributes to its fulfillment, if she would go down in history in Marcos’ distinguished company.

Arlene Adao, hotmail — President Arroyo is taking some lessons from President Marcos’ book of control. It’s about time that our country and the world at large saw some strength from the President. Too tough is better than too weak.

Charlie Fernando, Yamanashi, Japan — The most logical reason is to preserve recent economic gains which, if sustained, would help President Arroyo redeem herself. She wants to show she was the right choice for the presidency. Destabilization during this economic takeoff must be prevented at all costs.

Emy Riguera, aol — The purpose is to keep herself in power. Like Marcos’ notorious Amendment No. 6, same in substance as Proclamation 1017, Arroyo is determined to silence and threaten those who oppose her. The question we should ask is: “Is the Filipino people dumber in 2006 than in 1986?”

Evaristo F. Nievera, New York — With the foes of GMA fomenting a civil war, she might be forced to declare martial law. If they don’t shut up and do their job in Congress. Yon ang gusto ng mga Pinoys: arguments, just like what you see in Filipino tv-novelas. If GMA resigns, it will be a disgrace for her.

Raul Anonuevo, citistreetonline — The recent mass actions organized by the left, extreme right, opportunists, trapos, talangkas, thieves, misguided masa and election losers obviously present a very clear and present danger as they are dragging the economy down. The President got to do what she’s got to do.

Rudy F. Mijares, Cagayan de Oro City — The President must stop power grabbers composed of disgruntled, leftist, selfish, hypocritical people (claiming to be nationalistic but do not want the country to succeed). We need a strong hand to govern us. We need calibrated freedom.

Chris Murphy, hotmail — The issue is one of core values. I do not mean religious or political views, I mean something much more basic — what do we believe, what do we think is right?

Dave Estrella, rogers — The Filipino people as a nation has gone wild. While the international community is raising money to help the mudslide victims in Leyte, people in the capital are spending for things that are counter-productive. That is completely insane.

Gene Sodders, netscape — The communists have infiltrated the country (Congress and the military).

Tony Reyes, Surprise, Arizona — The administration was laying the basis or testing the waters for a more sinister scenario in its calibrated response to the threats. That scenario is for Arroyo to become a dictator and stay in power forever. She knows it can be done by “taking good care” of the military.

Madeline T. Fetalino, ist-systems — Arroyo declared an emergency because it was the right thing to do. The threat was real. The economy is taking off. We do not need another People Power or coup. It’s time to teach adventurists a lesson. Instead of trying to oust the president, our country will be better off if they just simply worked hard.

Cristino Franco, yahoo — All the above reasons. Plus beclouding all the sensational issues against her, e.g. election cheating, fertilizer scam, etc. It is not intended to merely scare away her detractors but to neutralize them by incarceration for offenses not directly related to the emergency.

Oliver Mangahas, Taipei, Taiwan — It will be irresponsible of any President not to declare a state of emergency. Doing so made her a responsible leader worthy of people’s trust and confidence.

Ricardo C. Brazil, Paranaque — The President is consolidating her forces to protect the gains of the administration. She may be a wily political animal but she certainly is a decent lady. A God-fearing woman and obedient to the Lord.

Janet Smith, Shropshire, England — It did not do any good to the image of the Philippines. The sad reality is the Philippines like any other country needs investments from other countries to drive economic recovery/growth. No investors would want to risk funds in a country that does not seem to be able to achieve any stability.

Conrad Javier, Hunting Valley, Ohio — After being branded as “soft and weak” by the world, especially the West (post-Iraq military withdrawal three years ago), she wanted to show that she could still wield an iron fist when the occasion calls for it.

A.K. Ong, Las Piñas — I agree with GMA. The media have been remiss in policing their ranks. Time and again, a significant number of print and broadcast journalists have irresponsibly reported unverified news leads that led to damage to the reputation of the Philippines.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 9, 2006)

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