Friday, March 03, 2006

What Does Lifting Proclamation 1017 Mean?

If Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez is to be believed, there's not much difference between the situations before and after Proclamation 1017.

Speaking to reporters at the Justice Department minutes after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo lifted the controversial proclamation, Gonzalez said the only difference is there's no more threat of what he calls a "legal takeover" of the media and other businesses.

Gonzalez said prohibitions against "illegal rallies" would remain. "Well, if you have permits to rally, we can't stop you," Gonzalez said.

Warrantless arrests would continue in accordance to provisions in the law, he added. Media would still be monitored.

In fact, Gonzalez disclosed that the Department is transcribing commentaries made on television and poring through commentaries made in newspapers about Proclamation 1017.

"We'll see if any of the comments made could warrant the filing of a sedition or inciting to sedition case," G0nzalez said.

Gonzalez said that even if the President lifted the proclamation, it doesn't mean that she will not resort to it again.

"If it's necessary, we'll do it again," he said.

But petitioners want the Supreme Court to nullify and declare the proclamation as unconstitutional.

Kilusang Mayo Uno filed its petition against the proclamation yesterday and urged the High Court to rule on its legality once and for all.

"So the government can be deterred from issuing it again, if the act is illegal," KMU chief legal counsel Atty. Remegio Saladera.

Supreme Court Spokesperson Ismael Khan told reporters today that the oral arguments on the legality of Proclamation 1017 would push through as scheduled, on March 7, 2006 at 1 p.m. He declined however to speculate whether the High Court would still discuss the merits of the case or dismiss the petitions because the issue has been mooted by the lifting.

In February 2004, the High Court still decided on the merits of petitions against the President's proclamation of a state of rebellion in July 2003 at the height of the Oakwood mutiny. On August 1, 2003, President Arroyo lifted the proclamation but it did not stop the Court from ruling on its legality.

In the Court's decision penned by SC Associate Justice Dante Tinga, it said that as a general rule, Courts do not adjudicate cases that are moot as it only deals with actual controversies. But it can make certain exceptions as it did in the petitions against the proclamation of a state of rebellion.

" Nevertheless, courts will decide a question, otherwise moot, if it is “capable of repetition yet evading review," the Court said.

But Khan said it was not certain if the Court will do the same thing for Proclamation 1017.

"Let's just wait on Tuesday," Khan said.

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