THE government’s threat to charge members of the National Transformation Council (NTC) with sedition, rebellion and coup d’etat may actually stir more unrest, a prelate and an anti-crime advocate said on Monday.
“Sana wala ng threats na ganoon. Baka mas madagdagan pa ang mga taong galit na. Sana maalala rin niya na hindi siya habang buhay makapangyarihan [I hope that there should be no threats like those.
They could make more people angry. I also hope that she realizes that she will not be in power forever],” retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz told The Manila Times.
He was reacting to statements of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who on Sunday said the NTC was banking on false hopes that they can hide their action behind the cloak of free speech.
“Bakit kaya mali ang mag-rally ang mga tao? Wala na ba silang karapatan na ipahayag ang loobin nila na wala naman dalang baril at bala? Huwag naman. Please lang [Why should it be wrong for the people to rally? Don’t they have the right to air their sentiments even when they do so without bearing guns and bullets? Don’t stop the people. Please]!” Cruz said.
Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) chairman Dante Jimenez said the Justice chief may be courting a court case for “violating freedom of speech and expression.”
“The VACC which did not attend the rally yesterday [Monday] and is not officially part of the NTC will challenge this threat of Malacanang [before the]Supreme Court,” Jimenez noted.
Like Cruz, the VACC chief believes that de Lima’s pronouncements will only “provoke” the public to rise up against the government.
“The pronouncement of Malacañang that the call for the resignation [of President Benigno Aquino 3rd]is seditious is further creating an atmosphere of anger among the people, especially from people who have not joined the protests. Lalong magagalit ang tao,” Jimenez pointed out.
In a statement released to the media through the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), de Lima blasted the NTC for “perverting the nation’s grief” over the death of 44 elite police commandos in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao province on January 25, noting that the group is nothing but an “aggrupation of disgruntled GMA allies” and “opportunists” who want to sow “discord and division” among the ranks of the country’s military and police organizations.
GMA are the initials of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
“The NTC has carefully formulated this strategy in the false hope of propagating it legally in the mass media and among supporters without, however, accruing any criminal liability under the penal laws on rebellion, sedition and coup d’etat. This is a false hope, since certain actions already implemented by the group, from organizing fora and conferences of supporters and sympathizers, can already be contemplated as conspiracies relating to sedition, rebellion or coup d’etat,” de Lima said.
In Malacanang, the President’s spokesman Edwin Lacierda distanced himself from the “threats” of de Lima, saying he would rather “defer to the Secretary of Justice.”
“She would be in a better position to determine what would constitute sedition, what would constitute coup d’etat. Those acts are clearly defined under our penal laws. I would rather have Secretary Leila de Lima proffer her legal opinion being the Justice secretary,” the Palace official told reporters.
The NTC is a multisectoral group of clergymen, politicians, professionals and civil-society groups who are calling for the resignation of the President to pave the way for the establishment of a “caretaker government.”
But de Lima argued that the NTC’s pronouncements and publicly declared strategy for the capture of state power through active military support to the NTC “constitute conspiracy or proposal to commit rebellion and coup d’etat, conspiracy to commit sedition (Article 141 in relation to Article 139, RPC) or, at the very least, inciting to sedition (Article 142, RPC), as well as illegal assemblies (Article146, RPC). A junta by any other sanitized name is still illegal and unconstitutional.”