Friday, February 24, 2006

State of Emergency

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declared a state of emergency in the Philippines. This is a response to the coup attempt foiled by the government this morning.

This declaration changes nothing and everything. The declaration just characterizes the turmoil the Philippine state is in, it does not suspend the bill of rights or any of its provisions. The President can suspend the writ of habeas corpus (Article VII, Section 18) of the Philippine Constitution) but she has not done so. She can also declare a state of Martial Law (also Article VII, Section 18), but she has also not done so. And so, even with the declaration, nothing has changed. In fact, various groups at this time are conducting demonstrations, the militant left, the civil society groups led by former President Aquino, the supporters of former President Estrada.

And yet, this declaration changes everything. We have now again joined the ranks of unstable countries. Investors will hesitate to invest, those with liquid assets will transfer them to more stable environments, the peso will depreciate and most commoditiy prices will go up, most of the government's efforts to increase the pace of development would go down the drain.

I cannot fault the government of declaring a state of emergency, they are after all being threatened. I just wish they didn't have to.


The Philippine Daily Inquirer has published the full text of the President's declaration (furl copy). In another story the Secretary of Justice has justified the declaration of a state of emergency as constitutional. In this story, he advanced the theory that the
"government could also take over vital industries"
Which is of course ridiculous, IANAL, but there is no provision in Article VII, Section 18 of the constitution that allows this. As I stated earlier, this declaration does not suspend any rights acquired by the Filipinos with the first EDSA revolution.

And Senate President Drilon shares the same viewpoint, the same story quotes Drilon as saying that the declaration of a State of Emergency is a description of
"the factual state of things." and "It does not add any powers to the President."
I hope they stabilize the government and then end the state of emergency as early as possible.


The same story also carried the stupidest statement about this whole situation I have read and it was uttered by my second favorite senator, Senator Jamby Madrigal who said
“This is a sad day for democracy. The President's declaration of a state of emergency shows how volatile the situation is and shows that this administration is not really in control.”
The second sentence characterizes the situation, talk about stating the obvious. But how can it be a sad day for democracy when democtatic state uses state power to protect itself from unelected coup plotters? Can the Senator please answer me that question.

Update 2

With the delcaration of a State of Emergency, the police have apparently banned protest marches. The police have dispersed the earlier protest marches at the EDSA shrine, the site of both EDSA 1 and 2, when Filipinos booted out our then Presidents. But the demonstration organized by former President Aquino, a key figure in both EDSA's will push through.

Update 3

Listening to the Radio, it seems that Justice Secretary Gonzales is not using Article VII Section 18 for his statement that the government can also take over vital industries. He was basing his opinion on Article 12 Section 17 of the Constitution which states
"Section 17. In times of national emergency, when the public interest so requires, the State may, during the emergency and under reasonable terms prescribed by it, temporarily take over or direct the operation of any privately-owned public utility or business affected with public interest."
Which would seem to make him right except that the President cannot just declare a state of national emergency which will give her the power to take over vital industries, only Congress can give her this power as Article 6, Section 23 which states
"In times of war or other national emergency, the Congress may, by law, authorize the President, for a limited period and subject to such restrictions as it may prescribe, to exercise powers necessary and proper to carry out a declared national policy. Unless sooner withdrawn by resolution of the Congress, such powers shall cease upon the next adjournment thereof."
So the Congress will have to authorize the President to take over vital industries by passing a law.

Of course, there are no precedents from which we can base any of this opinions. Nothing like this has ever happened before except for the coup attempt of former Senator Gringo Honasan in 1989, and at that time President Aquino asked Congress to declare a State of Emergency and give her additional powers.

Section 3, Paragraph 3 of this law, Republic Act No. 6826 gave President Aquino the power to
"To temporarily take over or direct the operation of any privately-owned public utility or business affected with public interest that violates the herein declared national policy: Provided, however, That to the extent feasible, management shall be retained, under the direction and supervision of the President or her duly designated representative who shall render a full accounting to the President of the operations of the utility or business taken over: Provided, further, That whenever the President shall determine that the further use or operation by the Government of any such public service or enterprise is no longer necessary under existing conditions, the same shall be restored to the person entitled to the possession thereof;"
The Arroyo administration may try to take over industries anyway, without an enabling law from Congress. I actually want them to do so, so that our governmental processes can mature and be strengthened.

Update 4 (9:33 p.m.)

All protest have been dispersed, even the one led by President Aquino. The coup has apparently been effectively foiled. Reaction from various sectors are pouring in, from the U.S., J.P Morgan, the Catholic Church etc. The effects of this episode on the Philippines and the Filipinos will only be felt in the next few weeks but tomorrow, Filipinos, still have to again go on with their lives and it will be more difficult. Whoever is responsible for this, let them accept the responsibility. Let them tell our people, I did this, and I did this because of this reason, whatever their reason is. We deserve that much.

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