Thursday, March 02, 2006

We are the community of young progressives in Southeast Asia – individual activists and members of social movements, political organizations and progressive parties – committed to the advancement of democracy in our own countries and in the region. Together, we have vowed to promote the spirit and practice of genuine democracy where there is none and be the sentinels of our own democracies – as we work on improving its imperfections – for we are convinced that there is no other acceptable way of doing politics.

Young progressives in the Philippines were at first stunned and shamed by the audacity of the Arroyo government to issue Proclamation 1017, declaring an unconstitutional and baseless “state of national emergency” on 24 February that has led to violent dispersals of people’s assemblies, the veiled and direct attacks on media and the press and the arbitrary arrests of opposition leaders. The harsher irony for pro-democracy progressives is the fact that Gloria Arroyo chose to declare this illegal edict on the very day remembered by millions of Filipinos as the culmination of the long fight for freedom from a dictatorship and the dark years of martial rule. For the Filipino people who, 20 years ago, have been beacons of hope and paragons of “people power” that inspired democratic transitions across the globe, the turn of events the past few days is a cause for alarm, lament and now, righteous anger.

The act of Gloria Arroyo is a bare-faced abuse of presidential power by a person whose mandate as president is under very serious cloud of doubt. This proclamation, with the attendant General Order No. 5, merely highlights the insecurity of Mrs. Arroyo and the self-serving design of a government intensifying the use of its coercive powers and training its weapons on its own people.

While we do not condone any violent schemes of grabbing power, we shall stand by the inalienable right of people’s movements to protest abuses and defend fundamental freedoms. The first lesson of democracy is, after all, the defense of the right to unhampered expression of ideas including those we disagree with. We must also reiterate our conviction that democracy and the full exercise of our rights are not anathema to economic progress. A free and empowered people in a genuinely democratic society is the best investment that can push the Philippine economy forward and deliver the economic benefits to those who have long been at the bottom and therefore need it most. Gloating about economic gains under a “police state” shall ring hollow and vain. The international community is watching.

As Filipino young progressives, we are the rightful inheritors of the proud legacy of women and men who braved a dictator’s Martial Law and re-established Philippine democracy that is imperfect but evolving. Freedom is our birthright.

As we wage our own battle in Manila, we are also expressing our solidarity with our comrades and friends in Thailand and Cambodia who, in the face of anti-democratic forces of the State, remain steadfast in living progressive politics and fighting for the democratic ideals we hold dear.

Make no mistake about it: we will resist, we will defy, we will fight – with all our creative energies and physical strength – against any assault on hard-won freedoms. We are young; we will not grow weary.

Stop the attacks on our freedoms and human rights! Stop the arbitrary arrests!
Restore genuine democracy in the Philippines! Lift Proclamation 1017 now!

YPSEA – Philippine Groups:

Akbayan Youth; First-Time Voters (FTV) Network; BISIG Youth; Movement for the Advancement of Student Power (MASP); Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP); National Alliance of Community-based Young People (Alyansa); Young progressives of De La Salle University, Ateneo de Manila, Miriam College, Philippine Normal University,
University of the Philippines and other universities

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