We in AKBAYAN wish to express grave concern over President Arroyo’s announcement yesterday regarding prepared Executive Orders (E.O.s) granting her emergency powers, ostensibly to deal with whatever crises the conflict in Iraq may bring. She said that such E.O.s are necessary to control prices, hoarding and “terroristic” activities; we vehemently disagree. There is no need for emergency powers to monitor and regulate prices—the Dept. of Trade and Industry is fully mandated to do that. Hoarding can be checked using ordinary police measures. Meanwhile, hasn’t the government been going after “terrorist” groups all this time? Why are emergency powers necessary to continue doing so?

The war in Iraq does present many dangers to us, especially because this government has chosen to support the US in its aggression. We have repeatedly raised the alarm about sympathy strikes against the Philippines by terrorist groups. The Arroyo government must take responsibility in protecting our people from such attacks.

There are, however, similar opportunistic attacks that may come with the US invasion of Iraq: the opportunism of our politicians who wish to take advantage of our fears. Last night, March 19, the Lower House voted in support of convening itself into a Constituent Assembly to amend the Constitution. Our congressmen did this on the last day of House sessions, while all of us were focused on the impending hostilities in Iraq. President Arroyo chimed in with her secret E.O.s, the contents of which will be revealed to us in due time, such as when we are preoccupied with the death and devastation in Iraq.

AKBAYAN denounces these attempts, inadvertent or otherwise, to prepare us for a more restrictive government in the guise of protecting us from the consequences of ill-considered support for the US. With all the precedents in our history concerning duplicitous leaders and draconian rule, surely, it is not surprising why we are being suspicious and critical. The war in Iraq will kill many thousands of innocent civilians; let us not allow our democracy to be added to the list of casualties.

20 March 03
President, AKBAYAN Citizens’ Action Party