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Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Discovering the Batasan Complex + more

For the past 1 month and 23 days, I became familiar with the various places inside the Batasan Complex and the persons assigned to ensure our safety from the snooping eyes of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Permit me to share you a "virtual guided tour" of the Batasan Complex.

The distinguished members of the House of Representatives can hold open air gatherings – forums, seminars, holy mass, birthday parties, etc. – at many points in Congress. You have the sunken garden near the congress minority office, at the grotto just beside the southwing lobby entrance, or at the so-called freedom park where the big mango trees provide protection from the heat. These are good alternatives to expensive hotels and conference sites.

There is an open basketball court where everyone can sweat it out after a jog within the complex. My son Harvey Rafael (HR) and I play on this court every 4:00 to 6:00 pm for the past week now. I cannot defeat my son in our one-on-one engagement since a 14-year old kid has a strong legs and more stamina than his 39-year-old father. He has a Caidic-esque left hand that aids his shooting prowess.

I also learned that a covered court is soon to be built near the present basketball area. I am hoping that HR and I will not anymore play on that new court. That is, if our petitions before the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court are immediately acted upon. Any favorable resolution of the said petitions would send us back to our homes.

Oh, by the way, there is the padlocked sports club facility in the Batasan that is not maximized. A senior colleague in the House intimated to me that it can be refurbished as a dorm for the visitors who come from provincial districts. Not a bad idea compared to spending much more for a stay in hotels.

But more than the places and buildings in the complex, it is much worthwhile getting to know the people who are with us. The personnel from the Congress Legislative Security Bureau (LSB) tasked by the plenary to secure us. Hence, they do extra time apart from their usual hours of duty.

My habit of staying up late at night to talk to them, especially when we were still sleeping at the Speaker's conference room educated me so much as far as their situations are concerned.

They secure us but they are insecure in so far as the status of their employment is concerned. This early, they are told that everything will start from zero come July 2006 since the parliament will already be formed. Allegedly, certain computations for their benefits are already being cooked-up as to how much each individual employee gets the moment their items are dissolved.

They are afraid of Charter Change (Chacha). For them, Gloria's Cha-cha dance equals UNEMPLOYMENT!

I took pains in explaining to them our position against Chacha. I explained to them that the shift to parliamentary from presidential form is not the solution to the huge mess that the country is facing right now. I also shared how Chacha will affect our economy and patrimony. My explanations went beyond the issue of unemployment, if ever Chacha pushes through. Deep down, I knew it would take some time before our discussion points would sink in.

Come to think of it, the Chacha = unemployment line can be a feasible line inside the House!

Oh well. The Batasan indeed remains a complex environment for anyone and everyone. Discovering it can be a joyful experience for those seeking thorough-going changes in our country.

Why we’re still here

Despite the lifting of Presidential Proclamation 1017, the crackdown against us and the legal Left in general remains real. To go around the rigid requirements of the law on the matter of arrests, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Department of Justice (DOJ) are peddling the legal fiction (an outright lie, actually) that the five of us are already under arrest in the House and that if we leave the Batasan grounds, we will simply be “re-arrested” for escaping from detention. This is unconstitutional, illegal and preposterous, to say the least.

House Resolution 1069 is clear: we are not under arrest. We are accorded protective custody by the House to ensure that our constitutional right to due process is respected. This means, among others, the right to undergo preliminary investigation before a case is filed in court and a warrant of arrest is issued. For the record, we are NOT invoking parliamentary immunity from arrest nor asking for any special treatment. All we want is to be accorded rights every Filipino should enjoy. That Congress has to pass a resolution to ensure that its members are accorded these basic rights is a testament to how such rights are being violated with impunity by the Arroyo regime.

The PNP and DOJ are bent on desecrating these rights guaranteed in the Constitution, our laws and the rules of court. They want us arrested on trumped up charges of rebellion even if probable cause has yet to be established. Worse, our members are being killed and abducted in much the same way. This is pure POLITICAL HARRASSMENT AND PERSECUTION.

If we leave the House now and allow ourselves to be arrested, then we become a party to the violation of our own rights and to our own persecution. It is neither honorable, brave nor wise to grant Pres. Arroyo and her hawks that pleasure. If they can do this to duly elected members of Congress, then they will certainly do it to ordinary citizens. Allowing such an atrocity will also deny our constituents their right to representation in Congress.

Thus, we are taking all steps possible – including filing several motions at the DOJ, Court of Appeals and Supreme Court – to stop this madness.

To sum it up, our continued stay in the Batasan is an ACT OF DEFIANCE against a regime that wants to annihilate us. We are not afraid of arrest and are ready to face all the charges against us. What we will never allow is the wanton violation of our right to due process and the continued persecution of our parties and organizations.