Posted: March 8, 2007
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Institutionalizing Martial Rule through the Anti Terrorism Law


GMA has signed another dreaded law today, the Human Security Act commonly known as Anti-Terrorism Bill, adding to her crimes against the Filipino people. Today, more than ever, GMA proved that there is no room for human rights, social justice and democracy in its regime. State terrorism is practically legalized, and the unabated spate of political and extra judicial killings is justified, with the signing of the Anti-Terror Bill. The Cordillera Peoples Alliance strongly denounces this. With this law at hand and the Oplan Bantay Laya II in operation, we can only expect graver human rights violations, killings, and worsened national oppression of indigenous peoples and the Filipino people.

Very vague and dangerous definition
Section 3 of the Anti Terrorism Bill states terrorism as “sowing and creating a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand.” With this, the law can be used to quell legitimate dissent, where critical political exercise can be deemed an act of coercing to government to give in to an unlawful demand. With this kind of definition, Arroyo can use the law as an instrument to quell legitimate dissent. Critical political exercise can easily be misinterpreted as an act coercing the government to give in to an unlawful demand. Actions of indigenous peoples who are justly defending their ancestral territories and resisting destructive projects like mining, dams, logging and the like can be considered ‘unlawful’ in the same manner that the ouster of Arroyo will always be interpreted as ‘unlawful.’ The bill also does not qualify what constitutes a “condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic.” The vagueness that consistently runs through the Act leaves the law wide open to misinterpretation, misapplication and grievous abuse by agents of the State. An indigenous peoples’ community that puts up a barricade in defense of their community against mining or another unwanted project could be considered by those in power who impose the definition of terrorism as a terrorist act. Any person or group that oppose or criticize government policies against the people are vulnerable to terrorist tagging and penalty of terrorism by the ruling regime.

In addition, Section 17 of the Bill allows the proscription of organizations as terrorists on the mere application by the Department of Justice before any Regional Trial Court (RTC). All it takes is for the notorious Secretary of Department of Justice Raul Gonzales to file a case before any RTC and an organization, association or group of persons may be declared as a terrorist and thus, outlawed. Easily tagged as terrorists, with the CPP/NPA/NDFP and MILF, are groups which State agents have maliciously labelled as “front organizations”, such as the CPA and other legal and legitimate people’s organizations, whose leaders and advocates have been politically assassinated by the Arroyo regime’s military death squads while the rest are threatened and harassed.

In the Bill, terrorism is defined from a point of view of a militarist and fascist regime that has a very poor human rights record and no respect for peoples’ democratic rights. It is also enacted by a regime which is at the brink of collapse, and whose political survival is in a state of mayhem. That is the Arroyo regime whose only interest is to remain in power by the power of the gun. It is also the commitment of Mrs. Arroyo and her minions to Bush’s War on Terror to maintain their support for her political survival.

Infringement of rights
Suspects of terrorism will be denied due process and presumption of innocence. One may be deprived of the right to travel and the right to communicate on the mere suspicion of terrorism, such as in Section 26 of the Bill, which restricts the right to travel. (Sec. 26 states: “Restriction on the Right to Travel—In cases where evidence of guilt is not strong, and the person charged is …granted... bail, the court shall …limit the right of travel of the accused to within the municipality or city where he resides. He or she may also be placed under house arrest by order of the court… While under house arrest, he or she may not use telephones, cell phones, emails, computers, the internet or other means of communications with people outside his residence until otherwise ordered by the court.” By considering one guilty of terrorism on the mere basis of suspicion, the Act undermines the basic principle that all persons are presumed innocent unless otherwise proven by a competent court of law.

Under Sec. 19, in the event of actual or imminent terrorist attack, suspects may be detained for 48 hours without warrant. Municipal, city, provincial or regional human rights commission officials are authorized to order the detention of suspected terrorists beyond 48 hours. This is a clear violation of the Sec. 18, Article VII of the Constitution which provides that “During the suspension of the privilege of the writ, any person thus arrested or detained shall be judicially charged within three days, otherwise he shall be released.”

Further, Sec. 7 legalizes surveillance of terror suspects. Authorities may intercept and record all communications of suspected terrorists and their alleged conspirators. Opposition Senators claim to have inserted certain provisions which can prevent abuses of this power but these may prove ineffective given the track record of the state when it comes to wiretapping and eavesdropping. We only have the Hello Garci scandal to remind us of how wiretapping has been abused in the past.

Under Sec 27, bank deposits, accounts and records of suspected terrorists and their alleged conspirators may be examined by authorities. The key concept here is that even suspects can be subjected to bank examinations. All pertinent information involving a suspected account, including transactions with other accounts, can be opened up.

Section 53 provides for the creation of the Anti-Terrorism Council. The members of the Council are (1) Executive Secretary; (2) the Secretary of Justice; (3) the Secretary of Foreign Affairs; (4) the Secretary of National Defense; (5) the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government; (6) the Secretary of Finance; and, (7) the National Security Advisor. The National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) shall serve as its secretariat. The Council’s functions include: direct the speedy investigation and prosecution of all persons accused or detained for the crime of terrorism or conspiracy to commit terrorism; freeze bank accounts, funds of suspected terrorists; establish and maintain database on terrorism. Most of the members of the Anti-Terrorism Council are already part of the notorious cabinet cluster on security. As members of the Cabinet Oversight Committee for Internal Security (COC-IS), Eduardo Ermita, Raul Gonzalez, Norberto Gonzales are the masterminds of repressive policies and measures such as the Oplan Bantay Laya, Proclamation 1017, calibrated pre-emptive response and executive order 464. The three are now joined by newly appointed Defense Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane, a retired general linked to the Garci scandal.

State of lawlessness and impunity
There is no state of law and order in the country—only lawlessness and impunity of those who rule by the power of the gun. Let us not forget the issue of the president’s illegitimacy, one that sent the people in an uproar, and Arroyo in dire straits to keep the presidency. Thereon, Arroyo has unleashed policy after policy of draconian measures to suppress the basic rights and liberties of the Filipino people, violating the very provisions we are entitled to as stated in the 1987 Constitution. Since Arroyo’s assumption to power in 2001, there have been 818 victims of political killings, of which 97 are indigenous peoples and 33 are from the Cordillera. These figures do not include the thousands of orphaned communities and families as a result of these senseless killings nationwide. These figures will surely increase unless the OBL is lifted, and the Terror law, scrapped.

We do not need another law. Lack of laws is not the problem as there are more than enough laws. Existing laws do not prevent authorities from going after real terrorists and criminals. What is needed is political will to hunt down the real terrorists even if this means prosecuting the top brass of the AFP, PNP and the Commander-in-Chief as no one is above the law. What is also needed is effective law enforcement and overhauling of the corrupt criminal justice system.

It cannot be denied that according to international law and resolutions, international humanitarian law and conventions, the commentaries of numerous legal scholars as well as judicial doctrine pertaining to the matter, acts in pursuit of one’s political beliefs are considered legitimate, have legal recognition and cannot as such be regarded, much less penalized, as terrorism.

With the nearing elections, the CPA reiterates its call to the public not to support and vote candidates and political parties who supported the passage of the Bill. It is even deplorable that even our congressmen from the Cordillera homeland have given their support for the passage of the Anti Terrorism Bill. What we should support are candidates and political parties who can stand for the rights and interest of the people, of the marginalized sectors.

The dark years of martial law haunts the Filipino people tenfold with the institutionalization of the Terror Law. The government exists for the people, and must uphold the rights of its constituents. But what we have is one that leads the grossest violation of human rights in Philippine history. We must unite and act against more political persecution and killings, human rights violations, and national oppression of indigenous peoples. We must act together to reclaim the democracy and social justice we are entitled to in a government. The time to act is NOW!

Scrap the Anti Terrorism Law!
Uphold the rights of the people!
Oust the fascist Gloria Macapagal Arroyo regime!
No to another Martial Law!

March 6, 2007

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