News this weekend reveals that the Philippine Government has decided that Foreigners in the Philippines (such as myself) can not practice Free Speech. Those who take part in freedom of speech are breaking the law and will be subject to jail. This word came from the Philippine Commission on Human Rights. I suppose that this would mean that foreigners are no longer considered worthy of human rights in the country.
He was apparently alarmed over this PDI story reporting a statement by the Commission on Human Rights declaring foreigners as law breakers when they join protests against the government. Indeed the same article has Justice Sec. Raul Gonzalez ordering the arrest of a Bangladesh national who made anti-Arroyo remarks before an international gathering of peasant leaders and representatives.
Bob also worries about foreigners in the Philippines writing blogs:
Based on the statements issued, it would seem to me that anything written in a blog by a foreigner, if it was deemed to be different than the government position would be considered illegal. Personally, I would not participate in a rally, it just isn’t my style. However, what about commenting with your personal opinion on a blog, would the CHR consider that to be an illegal activity for a non-Filipino? I feel that what I write is not wrong, nor do I really feel that in any way I have ever called for any action against the government. However, I also feel that with the statements issued, the Philippine government could stretch it far enough to consider this blog illegal and put me in jail.
It doesn't seem likely that Bob will be jailed for blogging anytime soon. Not yet anyway. But for peoples of the world who believe that eternal vigilance is the price they pay for their cherished liberties and freedoms, I don't think any threat to civil liberties ought to be taken lightly. Especially when it comes from a regime that has tasted some blood during the quashing of the Arroyo impeachment case, in the exercise of Rule of the Majority as if it were the same as Dictatorship of the Proletariat.
I was surprised to find Bob Martin being so concerned about this matter of Philippine civil liberties since his primary focus lately has been the war on terror and the hunt for the Bali-Dos Bombers in Mindanao. But then, the fact is, his ancestors gave the first push against European-style colonialism by proclaiming a free people's right to withdraw their consent to be governed by tyrants, a long time ago, in 1776. Should we doubt where such a people will stand, if the iron fist falls?
The turn to an undeclared authoritarian rule, is really poisoning the atmosphere and damaging the military and police morale by putting them directly at real and potential loggerheads with protestors, civil libertarians, opposition politicians, militant leftist groups, priests, nuns and ordinary citizens.
Thus, the earnest efforts of the Philippine military and police authorities to search for and interdict not only terrorists, but all sorts of criminals and wrongdoers, are being undermined because many people don't trust them and think they are just tools of the Palace out to suppress legitimate political protest. If the military cannot rely on "grassroots intel" from a population that has confidence and trust in them, we might not see again such successes as the detection and arrest of Ramzi Youssef of Operation Bojinka and the first attack on WTC. But it is the Palace that is alienating the people from the military and police, who must carry out its increasingly repressive policies.