It used to be that only thieves prowl the night. They do their workings when their intended victims are asleep, the police are few, and the probability of sightings and people lending a hand to the victims are low. Thieves thrive on furtiveness and treachery to steal money and property.

That was until Martial Law…

Then not only thieves prowled the night. The dreaded MISG (Metrocom Intelligence Security Group) and the CSG (Constabulary Security Group) operated during the night. Late evening and early dawn raids were commonplace to catch their targets asleep and off-guard. A lot of critics of the Marcos dictatorship, especially from the Left, were caught this way. The late evening raids also made political detainees then vulnerable to torture as their capture was done at night when the people are asleep and the probability of someone witnessing the abduction is low. The Marcos dictatorship thrived on fear and darkness to deprive people of their rights.

Supposedly, there is no Martial Law. But the Arroyo administration is thriving in furtiveness, treachery, fear, and darkness.

Early morning of March 19, 3 a.m. to be exact, Rep. Satur Ocampo of Bayan Muna (People First) party was abruptly roused from his sleep to be taken to Hilongos, Leyte. He was bodily carried to a van by 5:00 a.m, taken to the airport, and flown by private plane to Leyte only to be taken back because of a court order remanding him to the custody of Local Government Undersec. Marius Corpus until after the Supreme Court hears his petitions for Temporary Restraining Order and certiorari. They tried to pre-empt the Supreme Court. Only the quick move of Ocampo’s lawyers who sent Neri Colmenares, general counsel and third nominee of Bayan Muna, to Leyte early morning of March 19 to file a petition to allow Ocampo to be detained in Manila until the Supreme Court hearing on March 23 frustrated the plan of the government. Why did they have to do this in the dead of the night when Ocampo is already in their custody? Is it to pre-empt any court decision and protest action questioning the planned move? This was not the first time that the Macapagal-Arroyo administration acted in the dead of the night.

On December 29, 2006 at 11 p.m., Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith who was convicted of raping Nicole was transferred from the Makati City Jail to the U.S. embassy in the dead of the night. That was after Judge Benjamin Pozon of the Makati Regional Court rejected the petition of Smith’s counsels, the U.S. embassy, and the Macapagal-Arroyo administration for his transfer to the embassy. Smith was ordered to be detained in the city jail until after the government and U.S. embassy agree which Philippine jail facility he should be imprisoned.

These unjust acts of the Arroyo government are not merely concerns of Ocampo and Nicole. These concern all of us. If they can run roughshod on the rights of Rep. Satur Ocampo, a public figure and member of Congress, they can do more to people who are not as prominent. If the government has the temerity to defy a court order and spring a convicted rapist in a case which caught the public’s interest, it can easily deny justice to an ordinary Juan or Juana de la Cruz.

In Ocampo’s case, the Arroyo administration showed how easy it is for them to deny us of our rights and liberty. In Nicole’s case the government demonstrated that it has no qualms about denying us of our dignity and justice.

When the government arrested Ocampo and tried to deprive him of his rights, it did not do so in defense of democracy nor merely to implement the law, it did it to suppress dissent and to impose its will. When the government spirited away Smith and turned him over to the U.S. embassy, it did not do so in compliance to a lawful international agreement, it did it out of servility and to court the continued political and financial support of the U.S. government to its rule.

A thief will continue stealing for as long as it has not been caught and put behind bars. The Marcos dictatorship could have continued with its iron-fist rule if it was not ousted. The Arroyo administration would continue denying us of our rights, liberty, dignity, and justice if we allow it to do so.

The spate of political killings and forced disappearances which has victimized 836 and 194 persons, respectively, has not stopped not only because the Arroyo administration and the Armed Forces of the Philippines continue to be in a state of denial. It continues because we have not yet shown what the Filipino people will and can do if it does not stop.

The Filipino people has ousted two presidents, in 1986 and 2001, and was able to stop two attempts at amending the 1987 Constitution for self-serving ends, the first in 1997 and again in 2006. It can put a stop to the unjust and anti-people acts of the Arroyo administration. Bulatlat

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