Thursday, May 04, 2006

The other hocus pocus

When A tells B “Insofar as your looks are concerned you are a woman” is that an affirmation of B’s womanhood? Or isn’t A really telling B “You are only a woman insofar as your looks are concerned but otherwise you are not” or, simply, you are something else?

So, when the Supreme Court in David v. Macapagal-Arroyo rules that “PP1017 is CONSTITUTIONAL insofar as it constitutes a call by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on the AFP to prevent or suppress lawless violence” is not the Court in fact holding that the disputed presidential proclamation is, for all intents and purposes, unconstitutional?

Why couldn’t the Court simply call a spade a spade?

The basic principle to consider in David, it seems, is: The “prerogative” of the president as the executive and as the commander in chief of all the armed forces to “call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion” is never doubted with or without the express recognition of such prerogative in the Constitution. Therefore, if the only (lawful) purpose of Presidential Proclamation 1017 is to restate or affirm a presidential prerogative, then its issuance was as superfluous (or “an utter superfluity” to borrow the description of Justice Tinga) as the so-called “calling-out” clause in the Constitution is an expendable verbiage.

Unstated but inevitably evincible from the decision is the ratiocination that the issuance of PP 1017 has been dictated by no other purpose than to serve as a clever cover (a “legal hocus pocus” according to the concurring opinion of Chief Justice Panganiban) for the contemplated exploitation of the presidential prerogative. The prerogative was in fact misused by the Malacañang draftsmen who contrived PP 1017 and by the officers of the executive branch who subsequently enforced it and whose zealous if otherwise harsh and wrongful executions of the proclamation within days of issuance (such as the arrest without warrant of UP professor Randy David, one of the petitioners in the case, and the raid at The Daily Tribune) were never earnestly countermanded by the President.

Indeed, while the president may have the prerogative to call out the military under the circumstances enumerated in the decision, there is clearly no justification for issuing PP 1017 in a manner detrimental to civil liberties based on the dubiety of the language of the proclamation (lifted in form as it was from the infamous Marcosian Proclamation 1081 which placed the Philippines under martial law).

It is now incontrovertible that both Marcos’ Proclamation 1081 and Arroyo’s Proclamation 1017 served as basis, at the very least, for condoning warrantless arrests, the banning or dispersal of public assemblies, the curtailment of free press and speech, the takeover or seizure of media establishments and the issuance of orders that have the force of laws.

What took the Court so long to make up its mind promulgating a needlessly long-drawn decision considering the Filipinos’ not too far-flung painful and humiliating encounter with Marcos despotic rule?

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