DOJ chief warns group faces rebellion for plotting vs Aquino
THE National Transformation Council (NTC), a multisectoral group of clergymen, politicians, professionals and civil-society groups, may be charged with sedition, rebellion or coup d’etat for “instigating” a military-backed people power uprising, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima warned on Sunday.
In a statement released to the media through the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), de Lima blasted the organization 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.
She said the government will not take the group’s actions lightly as she lashed out at NTC’s “pathetic gutter politics” for using the Mamasapano tragedy to mount its campaign against President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
“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 added.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. sent copies of the Justice chief’s strongly-worded statement to Palace reporters.
“The NTC’s pronouncements and publicly declared strategy for the capture of state power through active military support to the NTC are therefore acts which already constitute conspiracy or proposal to commit rebellion and coup d’etat (Article 136 in relation to Articles 134 and 134-A, Revised Penal Code), 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,” de Lima said.
By calling for people power and military support to force the President’s “resignation” in order to pave the way for a junta, the NTC and its “mushrooming allied alphabet soup organizations of discredited government officials consisting of charged plunderers, grafters and tax evaders, or of those under investigation for such crimes, may have just crossed the line of legitimate dissent,” she pointed out.
The Justice secretary warned the group that they will not take these matters lightly, saying the NTC’s goals will never be achieved “because the military will never support the extra-constitutional installation of a junta led by GMA bishops and ex-officials.”
“The government will not relent in applying the full force of the law against them in order to protect the people and the State from an unconstitutional and illegal power grab. In the end, any civilian or religious-led putsch will not succeed. The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and the PNP (Philippine National Police) stand behind the President, no matter how the Mamasapano incident is exploited by opportunists, such as NTC, to sow discord and division among their ranks,” she pointed out.
De Lima, through the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and other law-enforcement agencies, was said to be leading the monitoring of groups and individuals who have been egging the public on to support a supposed power grab.
But the Justice chief dismissed the alleged coup plot as “plain talk.”
“The coup threats that have been making the rounds recently are not coup threats in the strict sense of the word. They do not come from any section of the government’s security forces. Basically, they emanate from a long-standing strategic policy of a loose aggrupation of disgruntled GMA allies, former officials and politicians and members of the Catholic clergy likewise closely identified with GMA… to instigate or foment a military-backed people power uprising, or an EDSA 3 (or EDSA 4, depending on how one counts the May 1, 2001 Mendiola uprising) as they would wish,” she said.
De Lima particularly cited Arroyo’s former Defense chief Norberto Gonzales, who was also National Security Adviser, as the active NTC member who gives false hopes to other supporters of the council.
Gonzales has attended most of the NTC’s previous gatherings since last year in Lipa Cit, Batangas where the NTC held its founding “Congress” on August 27, 2014.
In its Lipa Declaration, the NTC said it has lost trust and confidence in the President and urged him to step down.
“Far from preserving and defending the Constitution, as he swore to do when he assumed office, the incumbent President Benigno Simeon Aquino [3rd] has subverted and violated it by corrupting Congress, intimidating the judiciary, taking over the treasury, manipulating the automated voting system and perverting the constitutional impeachment process,” the NTC said in a statement.
In a recent interview, Gonzales explained there is nothing wrong with people power, or a change in regime through people power, which was the case with EDSA 1 and 2.
But de Lima described his statement as “doublespeak.”
“The NTC has publicly declared in its meetings and so-called consultations that a people power strategy for regime change can only be successful if backed by military support for the installation of the [NTC] as a ‘transition government,’ and the suspension of elections or any other democratic process sanctioned under a constitutional government, until the enactment of reforms to be dictated by the NTC as the de facto government of the Republic. Everything in this strategy is illegal and unconstitutional, except probably for the people power part if executed merely as a form of mass mobilization in the exercise of the people’s freedom of assembly,” she noted.
The installation of the NTC as the governing body of the Republic is nothing but the installation of a civilian-military junta, and the call for the military’s support for its defense and installation is nothing less than a proposal or conspiracy to commit the crime of coup d’etat, according to de Lima.
“The nation is still grieving, and without any sense of shame, these personalities would use the people’s grief to pervert a national catharsis, serving only their own thirst and craving for absolute power by imposing upon this nation a tyranny of religious and political has-beens,” she added.