By Ellen Tordesillas
Ang Pahayagang Malaya
Gloria Arroyo is nearing the last stretch of her stolen presidency tolerated by the Filipino people thinking anyway, it’s only up to 2010. But are we sure she is stepping down in 2010?
Last Thursday, in an interview with ANC’s Ricky Carandang, former Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz warned that Arroyo might exploit the Mindanao situation and terrorist activities in the country to impose emergency rule that would justify her holding on to power beyond 2010.
Cruz, who should know Arroyo very well, said, "There is always temptation that’s why we have to be vigilant that doesn’t happen because that is not going to be very good for the country. It’s better to be on the extra side of caution in this matter."
The FSGO, a grouping of Former Senior Government Officials, which includes Cruz, is circulating a petition echoing Cruz’ call for vigilance. They say that moves to extend the term of Arroyo are very much alive.
"We, the organizations and individuals who have signed this statement, are citizens of this Republic alarmed by current political developments. We note that in spite of various protestations by political leaders from the administration and the opposition, the talk of a brazen attempt to extend the term of Mrs. Arroyo simply will not die.
"Charter change to be initiated in Congress through a constituent assembly has seemingly been stopped in its tracks by the vocal opposition of many members of the Senate, whose two-thirds approval would logically seem necessary to convene a constituent assembly.
"Yet the House of Representatives, through the Speaker, and the chairman of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments, has announced that it will be holding "public consultations" to elicit public opinion on charter change, whether for federalism, shift to a parliamentary system or such other excuse/justification as may later dawn on the proponents.
"Some legislators have been vocal in pushing their interpretation that ‘the Constitution requires only a two thirds vote of its members to propose amendments to the Constitution,’ an interpretation that would make the Senators’ votes almost irrelevant in the process.
"The current administration has swung violently on the matter of the conflict in Mindanao from rushing to sign the MOA on Ancestral Domain with the MILF to the abrupt cancellation of the peace talks, the dissolution of the peace panel and the attempt of Mrs. Arroyo to disown knowledge of the agreement; and now a relentless armed confrontation that is seemingly designed to goad the MILF and other groups into a combative reaction or a series of violent actions. The inevitable armed confrontations and deaths that will follow could be a ready-made platform to suspend the writ of habeas corpus or, heaven forbid, even the declaration of martial law. The Constitution requires only a vote of a majority of the members of Congress, voting jointly, to approve and extend martial law.
"We declare our commitment to a just and sustainable peace in Mindanao. We will initiate and support all possible actions that will bring about an inclusive process to begin with ceasefire and return to the peace table.
"We declare our united opposition (1) to any moves that exploit the Mindanao situation to extend Mrs. Arroyo’s stay in power, (2) to any attempt to amend the Constitution before 2010, (3) to any attempt to change the Constitution through a Constituent Assembly, and (4) to any step towards declaring martial law.
"We call on all Filipinos to be vigilant, to inform themselves, to organize with like-minded fellow citizens, and to prepare to show our leaders and officials the true power of our democracy."