MANILA, September 25, 2005 (MANILA TIMES) President Arroyo doesn’t need to declare martial law to deal with street protests seeking her ouster, officials said Saturday.

Opposition groups had warned that Mrs. Arroyo would resort to emergency rule to suppress continued unrest following the defeat of moves to impeach her on vote-rigging, bribery and other charges.

Justice Secretary Raul M. Gonzalez denied allegations by an opposition lawyer that the government has drafted a proclamation to crack down on critics.

“That is totally false. There is no such [proclamation],” he told ANC television. Gonzalez said he would not advise the President to impose martial rule, because “the climate in Congress won’t allow it” and because he expects immediate opposition from lawmakers.

But he has ordered a study of emergency steps to be taken if the economy deteriorates due to rising oil prices, citing constitutional provisions allowing a temporary government takeover of vital industries.

The President’s spokesman, Ignacio Bunye, dismissed speculation that the President was considering martial law.

“So-called emergency rule is far-fetched,” Bunye said in a statement Saturday. “Current threats and emergency situations can be handily covered by the police and the local governments.”

He said the government’s “preemptive calibrated response [to protest rallies] doesn’t mean that it is poised to exercise martial powers.”

On Wednesday, when 5,000 anti-Arroyo protesters marked the 33rd anniversary of the declaration of martial law, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita warned that the government would disperse rallies without permits and arrest those involved.

Ermita said the move follows intelligence reports of “credible plans of antigovernment groups to inflame the political situation, sow disorder and incite people against the duly constituted authorities.”

Later, Mrs. Arroyo said her government “will not tolerate” rallies that block traffic, hinder commerce and hurt the economy.

“Our government respects the rights of our people to assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances. However, these rights, as guaranteed by the Constitution, are not absolute,” she said in a statement.

Bunye said on Saturday that it is not only the Catholic Church that is supporting the President’s preemptive calibrated response to rallies but also the majority of the citizenry who want to go on with their daily lives.

Noting the inconvenience the rallies have been causing ordinary office workers particularly in Makati, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines on Friday issued a statement supporting the President’s order for a preemptive calibrated response to street protests without permits.

The CBCP agreed with the President that national interest and public order justified the implementation of the new policy, which amends the government’s stance of maximum tolerance.

The preemptive calibrated response, Bunye said, has replaced the policy of maximum tolerance because this has often been abused to the point that the protesters no longer respect authority.

The CBCP president, Archbishop Fernando Capalla of Davao, said the mass protest actions initiated by the opposition and militant groups demanding Mrs. Arroyo’s resignation have disrupted business and classes in the country’s premier financial district in Makati City. --AP and PNA

GMA vows no martial law but crackdown on protests to continue 09/25 3:20:21 PM

MANILA (AFP) - President Gloria Arroyo's government on Sunday described fears of martial law as "hogwash" but said a crackdown on street protests calling for her ousting will continue.

Arroyo's critics "should not whip up imagined fears of martial law" and such allegations "are plain hogwash," presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said, reacting to statements by the political opposition.

The president last week announced a "calibrated preemptive" response against street protests and abandoned the policy of what she called "maximum tolerance." She said protests were disrupting business, leading to heavy economic losses.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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