Tuesday, March 07, 2006

What's in a name?

It's now in the hands of the Supreme Court. Let us all pray that they would have the balls to decide the case on the merits, rather than dismiss it outright on ground of mootness (which is precisely why Gloria lifted it in the first place, dummy). Otherwise, as Drilon noted, "the media and freedom of the press may become academic."

While the President has the power to impose martial law or suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, Gloria has not resorted to either, because they are subject to the review of Congress and/or the Supreme Court. This is one of the many safeguards enshrined in the 1987 Constitution after the nation's collective experience with Martial Law. Gloria, on two previous occasions, resorted to the third commander-in-chief power which says "when it becomes necessary, she may call on the Armed Forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence or rebellion." This power has no "expiry date", and is generally beyond the power of review by the Supreme Court.

Just to refresh our memories, here are the two previous instances when Gloria called on the AFP:

In a May 2001 case involving an attempt by supporters of ousted President Joseph Estrada to march on MalacaƱang, the court held that the issue had become academic after Ms Arroyo rescinded her declaration of a state of rebellion.

However, Bernas recalled that the court dealt Ms Arroyo a setback in the Oakwood mutiny case in 2003 when it ruled even after the President had lifted a similar proclamation that a state of rebellion “cannot diminish or violate constitutionally protected rights.”

As Bernas noted yesterday

These two decisions clarify the meaning and the legal consequences of a declaration of a "state of rebellion." Such declaration adds no new powers. Our President, zealous guardian that she is of the "rule of law," accepts that clarification. But, desiring to assume powers which a declaration of a state of rebellion does not give, she avoided declaring a "state of rebellion." Instead, she proclaimed "a state of national emergency" to let her minions go their merry way. Beautiful!

There are innumerable words in the English dictionary. Merriam-Webster Online lists five synonyms for the word rebellion alone, i.e. revolution, uprising, revolt, insurrection and mutiny, which Gloria has not yet used as a euphemism for her own personal state of paranoia and panic. Now, unless the SC decides this controversy with finality, we may yet see this country under all different kinds of states, with nothing but Gloria's imagination to limit the possibilities.

That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet.