We, artists, support the “Walk for Democracy” held today by civil libertarians and other human rights defenders.
Lawyer Vicky Avena, former commissioner of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), was right on the mark when she said that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is building a “de facto dictatorship.” It is the height of bitter irony that just days after the country commemorated the 33rd anniversary of the declaration of martial law, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo would come up with two consecutive declarations undermining the civil liberties in the advancement and defense of which so many of our best and brightest compatriots gave their lives.
The first is the enforcement of the so-called “calibrated preemptive response” policy, which entails a strict implementation of the no permit, no rally policy provided for by Batas Pambansa Blg. 880 – a measure enacted during the days of dictatorship.
The second is Executive Order No. 464, preventing public officers from testifying in congressional investigations in aid of legislation without the President’s permission. This measure effectively bars the few principled or conscienticized among our public officers from divulging information on government activities that may be detrimental to the national interest.
To top off all of these, Arroyo is pushing for an anti-terrorism bill which, by the broadness of its definition of “terrorism,” could be construed to include even legal protest actions in its list of “terroristic activities” and makes people legally liable for simply being neighbors to suspected “terrorists.”
All this is happening in an atmosphere of unceasing political killings. The past month alone saw the killings of four activists. More than 400 persons critical of the policies of the Arroyo administration have been killed since 2001: the list includes priests, lawyers, journalists and even local government officials aside from grassroots activist leaders.
This creeping curtailment of civil liberties by a President who won in the last election by fraudulent means and has long been under fire for her imposition of anti-national and anti-people policies, corruption, and human rights violations has grave implications for artists. In an atmosphere of increasing suppression of civil liberties, a clampdown on the freedom of expression as practiced by artists cannot be far behind.
We support this activity, and commit contributions to other forthcoming efforts, for the defense of democratic rights – in the tradition of our fellow artists Amado V. Hernandez and Lino Brocka.
Artists for the Removal of Gloria (ARREST Gloria)
October 4, 2005