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Cabinet revamp tied to emergency rule

By Fe Zamora, Christine Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:50:00 07/08/2009

Filed Under: Government, Politics, Security (general)

MANILA, Philippines?The spate of bombings and a reported plan to reshuffle President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo?s Cabinet members concerned with national security policies could be a prelude to the imposition of emergency rule, according to former Senate President Franklin Drilon.

Drilon Tuesday said that sources had told him that the President was about to reshuffle Cabinet people on top of security policies amid a series of bombings in the country.

Drilon said his sources had told him that Presidential Management Staff chief Hermogenes Esperon would be designated defense secretary and Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro would move to the Department of Justice.

Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera would go back to her post as Solicitor General.

From being officer in charge of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Public Works and Highways Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane would be its new secretary.

?With Ebdane in DILG, emergency rule becomes more credible,? Drilon quoted a source as telling him.

The former Senate President couldn?t help but note that the designation of Ebdane as officer in charge of the DILG was a ?first.?

?We are concerned that this could mean the implementation of drastic measures, including emergency rule,? Drilon said.

Placing the country under military rule ?will not work,? said former President Fidel V. Ramos, who was one of the implementors of martial law in 1972.

FVR to oppose martial law

?Martial law will not work in the Philippines. It did not work before,? Ramos told the Philippine Daily Inquirer Tuesday after a healing Mass for his predecessor, Corazon Aquino, who is battling cancer.

Ramos made the statement amid reports that the rash of bombings in Mindanao was a prelude to martial law. ?I will be the first to oppose them,? he said of those who may be planning to return the country to military rule.

Ramos was chief of the Philippine Constabulary and the Integrated National Police when President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in September 1972.

The declaration of martial law was preceded by a rash of bombings and an assassination attempt on then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile. The attempt was later found to be a hoax.

Ramos was also one of the ?Rolex 12,? a group of 10 military men and two civilians believed to be the architects of the 1972 declaration of martial law. The members of the Rolex 12 included the late Romeo Espino (then Armed Forces chief of staff), Enrile and Eduardo ?Danding? Cojuangco Jr., then the governor of Tarlac.


Drilon said that ?these confluence of events? were a ?cause of concern.?

?This could be mind-conditioning and the reshuffle of the Cabinet in particular in the security area should be watched,? he said.

The militant Bagong Alyansan Makabayan (Bayan) shared Drilon?s apprehensions, saying the bombings could either be to create an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty, or to divert public attention from pressing issues and lay the basis for emergency rule.

?We should be vigilant, not just because of the bombings, but also because there may be some forces out to exploit the situation, so that some form of emergency rule or martial law can be declared,? Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr. said in a statement.

?Friendly coup?

Akbayan party-list Rep. Riza Hontiveros said the bombings were meant to build a scenario to pave the way for Ms Arroyo?s post-2010 plans ?where the hawks in the Cabinet could take over in a friendly coup.?

?What makes these bombings suspicious is that they are happening after National Security Adviser Bert Gonzales called for a transitional revolutionary government which is to be headed by no less that Ms Arroyo,? Hontiveros said.

Enrile appalled

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile called on the police to get to the bottom of the bombings ?to dispel these dangerous speculations as soon as possible,? which included the government being behind the bombings itself.

?Already, there are speculations that these bombings are state-sponsored to pave the way for a ?No-elections? scenario,? Enrile said in a statement.

Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, a former Armed Forces chief of staff, said he was bothered that the spate of bombings seemed to follow a pattern.

Condemning the bombings, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines asked the perpetrators to bring their issues to the proper forum.

?We join the local bishops in their call for sobriety, we join the Pope in condemning recourse to violence in solving existing problems,? CBCP president Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said.

Lagdameo said authorities should send a strong message that the terrorist attacks were wrong. With reports from TJ Burgonio, Gil Cabacungan, Alcuin Papa, Norman Bordadora and Kristine Alave

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