Friday, February 24, 2006

The Uncertainties Surrounding Juan dela Cruz

Juan dela Cruz* is most likely confused at this time. It is easy to get lost in translation when explaining the legal grounds and implications of President Arroyo’s Proclamation No. 1017, declaring a state of national emergency. (See the full text on

The country woke up to the news that military officers were held under custody for “illegal acts”. We encountered terms like “double red alert” and “hanging coup”. Classes were suspended in Metro Manila at all levels.

With nothing to do but watch TV, the nation waited as events unfolded. Different groups who gathered and marched – for different reasons – were formed in Timog, U.P. Diliman, Quezon City Circle, EDSA shrine, and People Power monument.

Bishop Yniguez and a group of nuns with him were prevented from celebrating mass at People Power monument, as it was allegedly declared as a no-rally zone.

Presidential Chief of Staff Mike Defensor and AFP Chief of Staff Generoso Senga granted interviews that only increased the anxiety of the people.

We waited for several hours for the President’s announcement. By mid-day, she declared a state of national emergency.

Press conferences were held with her cabinet members answering very direct and pointed questions with inconsistent explanations. There, we encountered more confusion than enlightenment. Constitutional provisions got mixed up and legal opinions in reaction to the text of the proclamation itself and declarations made by Defensor, DOJ Secretary Raul Gonzalez, and Presidential Legal Adviser Antonio Nachura elicited several reactions from the press.

The public needs to know what the basis of the grant is and what its extent is.

The legal world needs to respond to this; should we find anything unconstitutional, we should file the proper petitions in court as soon as possible.

I saw how Prof. Randy David and company were arrested. He was leading a group of rallyists from U.P. who were on their way to EDSA.

The questions of the press directed at the cabinet were telling of the sentiments. Upon the act of one military officer, where is the basis to declare state of emergency? What “confirmed reports” were Gen. Senga referring to?

How can the Filipinos be assured that their rights are intact, and that there will be no violence?

All celebrations commemorating the 20th anniversary of EDSA People Power have been cancelled. We are waiting for what will happen, as Senate President Franklin Drilon and former Pres. Corazon Aquino have sent word that they would continue with attending the wreath-laying at Ayala Avenue, at the monument of slain Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr.

Crowds are being dispersed on TV. Arrests are being made.

All laws, proclamations, executive orders, even ordinances, must stand the test of constitutionality. Whatever specific provisions were used by those who drafted the proclamation did not seem to reach those who were implementing the proclamation.

There are more issues and events that are ongoing and we cannot monitor them all. However, we are lost and confused. For while we are being assured that everything is under control, in the same breath threats are being made by the authorities that arrests could be made further and worse, the media fears the provisions in the proclamation regarding the transfer to the government of certain utilities under Art. XII, Sec. 17 of the Constitution.

We cannot help but ask more questions during this time. Who are our true protectors? Who can we turn to, whose noble ideas are worth imbibing, and whose leadership is worth following?

Let us pray for our country. We deserve justice, truth, peace, and progress. Let us pray that the Lord will protect us against further violence. Let us pray that the Constitution be upheld and that it would not be too costly to do so.

If I may add to what I wrote earlier, let us pray for Juan dela Cruz, that he may one day wake up to better news that make sense and are given by people who truly care for his welfare, and not just their own.

* Representing the ordinary Filipino citizen

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