Manila, February 25, 2006 | Before Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo announced Proclamation 1017, which put the country under a state of national emergency, a spate of unsolved killings and other human rights violations of legal political activists have been on the rise. Human rights organizations and other groups claim that these human rights violations by perpetrators believed to be from the military or Armed Forces of the Philippines-sponsored vigilantes are being done on a national scale and is a direct assault not only to human, civil and democratic rights not only of the victims but on legitimate peoples’ movements as a whole.

Then, there was the declaration yesterday. The proclamation is a response to alleged “conspiracy” between “the elements in the political opposition”, “extreme left” and “extreme right”, which is fuelled by certain segments of the national media to bring down the government of Arroyo. To “save democracy”, Arroyo ordered the violent dispersals of rallies and warrantless arrests of activists by the police. The good news, though, is that all the groups of activists, who were arrested yesterday, were released last night after hours of detention at Camp Karingal.

But the tensions are intensifying. The situation, more precarious. Arroyo has yet to withdraw her national emergency rule. And the military has just announced additional General Orders which would intensify their “counter-insurgency” operations. Permits for rallies marking the “people power” were cancelled. Various organizations, including the media, were over and again warned that they will face closure if they endangered ‘national security’, i.e. publishing anti-government stories and ‘biased’ coverage against the state. 

Malacanang claims that there is “an eminent threat to public safety”.  In response to this, a massive crackdown on dissenters was launched by the police and military. The first casualty of such is the office of the Philippine Daily Tribune, a national newspaper critical of the Arroyo government. Members of the administration have raided and taken over the national newspaper. But publisher Ninez Cacho-Olivarez vowed to fight it out and will continue to run the newspaper. Known opposition leaders have also been arrested and harassed for allegedly “conspiring” to bring Arroyo’s government down. Old charges as dated as 1985 are being revived, when in fact this has been squashed after Corazon Aquino descended into power through a peaceful civilian uprising. 

Numerous activists who fought the ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos are claiming that Arroyo’s ways and actions are Marcosian, if not worse. Brute police and military force are being used to gag dissenters. Media takeover was a precondition before Marcos delared martial law. History seemed to be repeating itself but the activists vowed to continue fighting and defend their human rights and civil liberties against the state’s growing repression.