On Wednesday, February 26, the Senate had passed, on third and final reading, Senate Bill No. 1083 or the “Anti-Terrorism Bill.” It seeks to provide law enforcers added leverage to protect the state from terrorism and, likewise, provide safety nets to protect the rights of those accused of the crime.
According to a The Diplomat article, the bill could have been approved before the end of 2019; yet because of various policy changes, it did not take place. At present, given the support and backup the bill had received from the legislature, defense establishments, and executive branch, the bill had pushed through with a 19-2 vote in the Senate.
Senators Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay, Pia Cayetano, Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, Grace Poe, Imee Marcos, Manuel “Lito” Lapid, Joel Villanueva, Cynthia Villar, Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao, Win Gatchalian, Bong Go, Richard Gordon, Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, Bong Revilla, Francis Tolentino, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, Majority Leader Migz Zubiri, and Senate President Tito Sotto voted in the affirmative.
Senators Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros, on the other hand, voted “no.”
“We need a strong legal structure that deals with terrorism to exact accountability, liability, and responsibility. Those who have committed, are about to commit, or are supporting those who commit terrorist acts should be prosecuted and penalized accordingly,” said Lacson.
“The enactment of this law will send a brave message to the world that we are in solidarity in the global fight against terrorism,” Dela Rosa expressed.
While it may seem upstanding of the administrators to draft a bill such as this, its implications poses a threat to the basic human rights of each and every Filipino. Here’s why.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
In essence, the bill aims to impose penalties on those who will propose, incite, conspire, and participate in the planning, training, preparation, and facilitation of terrorist acts as well as on those who will act as accessories to terrorist acts such as, but not limited to, providing material support to terrorists or recruiting members in terrorist organizations.
Additionally, the bill also aims to establish jurisdiction over Filipino nationals who may join and fight with terrorist organizations outside the Philippines and ensure that foreign terrorists do not use the country as headquarters to plan and train new recruits for terrorist attacks in other countries.
“Terrorism,” in essence, is the calculated and unlawful use of force or violence to invoke fear or intimidation to a person, a group of people, or a population, usually because of certain political or social motives.
The bill particulates terrorism through the, among others, the following acts:
- Causing death or serious bodily injuries to any persons, or endangers a person’s life
- Causing extensive damage or destruction to a government or public facility, public place, or private property
- Causing extensive interference with, damage, or destruction to critical infrastructure
- Developing, manufacturing, possessing, acquiring, transporting, supplying, or using weapons, explosives, or biological, nuclear, radiological, or chemical weapons; or
- Releasing dangerous substances or cause fire, floods, and explosions
Violation of these could subject involved people to a sentence equivalent to life imprisonment. On the other hand, a 12-year imprisonment would be imposed on individuals caught doing, among others, the following acts:
- “Threatening” to commit terrorism
- Inciting others to commit terrorist acts
- Voluntarily and knowingly joining any terrorism group or association
- Being an accessory in the commission of terrorism
In accordance with the proposed measure, suspected individuals can be detained without a warrant of arrest for 14 to 24 days or be placed under a 60 to 90-day surveillance.
The bill also included, among others, the following provisions:
- Legalization of wiretapping
- Lifting the fine or penalties of police officers who committed planting of evidence
- Allow guilty by suspicion and without warrant of arrest.
Furthermore, the bill also removed the provision on payment of P500,000 damages per day of detention of any person acquitted of terrorism charges.
HERE’S WHY THIS IS DANGEROUS
1.) State powers are greatly expanded, posing a threat to political dissent and independent action. For instance, the measure, as stated, would allow the lifting of punishment of officials who committed planting of evidence.
Given the current state of our society, this clause targets each and every single Filipino – the poor, the young, and the innocent. It tilts the scale of the justice system as it pardons acts that does not only strip off one’s right to due process but also allows treacherous acts to go unpunished by the law.
2.) The bill may be used to penalize political dissents, or even mere political opponents.
For example, the bill may be used to impose punishment on individuals or groups for simply having different or opposing opinions, especially when it comes to political matters. This not only targets activists and legitimate progressive groups and organizations but also blurs the line between activism, rebellion, and terrorism.
Thus, the enactment of the bill may, ultimately, invalidate current laws which recognize conspiracy-only-in-application-to cases of rebellion or treason which are, in essence, political crimes.
3.) It would allow wiretapping or “using any device or arrangement to secretly overhear, intercept, or record communication or spoken word by using a device such as, among others, a dictaphone or dictagraph, walkie-talkie, or tape recorder” — an evident breach in one’s right to privacy. Moreover, allowing the scrutiny of deposits or investments made without a court order is a breach, and a controversial feature, of the Anti-Money Laundering Law.
4.) Other acts of crime, which do not necessarily carry the gravity of terroristic acts, may be penalized the same way. For instance, a person who runs amok in a marketplace or an irate employee threatening a business establishment might be, in accordance to the bill, considered as terrorist acts; thus, not only blurring the line between actual terrorism and other criminal acts but also, once again, deprives the people of their right to due process.
5.) It may be used to redtag legitimate but progressive organizations, like duly-recognized student organizations, as terrorists or terrorist fronts. Strikes, rallies, and other expressions of civil unrest might be dubbed as so, too; thus, depriving the people not only of their basic right to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances but also of their freedom of expression.
6.) Because of the provision which allows innocent people to be accused and penalized even without a warrant of arrest, it, evidently, is a violation of the provisions under the Bill of Rights and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
7.) It might impose constraints on the country’s press freedom. No matter the political alliance, our society needs journalists. It is the duty of reporters and journalists to gather as many sources as possible, including those the government might consider “terrorists;” but if the bill were to be enacted, journalists would be obliged to become witnesses against these sources or else be charged of being accessories to terrorism and terrorist acts; thus, violating the mandates and the rights bestowed upon media personnel.
These individuals would, then, feel the need to restrain themselves when covering controversial issues and associating with controversial people despite being needed for the story. In the long run, it might affect the people’s right to information, resulting in, among others, ignorance of the issues, disinformation, and misinformation.
But, ultimately, this may pose a threat to national democracy.
To quote one of the most important provisions in the Bill of Rights, “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”
Quoting Senator Kiko Pangilinan, “The prolonged detention is an impingement of rights and liberty […] The current law is not perfect, and we, in Congress, should be working continuously to make it work for the people.”
“While all rights permit exceptions, I fear that certain provisions of the bill – specifically those allowing the preliminary prescription of suspected terrorist organizations prior to their being given an opportunity to be heard as well as those lowering the standard for warrantless arrest and detention – go too far and might lead to a number of pernicious consequences,” argued Senator Risa Hontiveros.
ANYONE CAN BE FLAGGED AS A “TERRORIST”
If the bill were to be enacted, it would allow various unjust and violating treatments and promote, among others, red-tagging, illegal arrest, and illegal detainment.
For instance, a certain Wilfredo Manapat tried to break in at the office of the Philippine Collegian, the official student publication of the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD), on November 16, 2019, stating that he would “do an inspection as part of surveillance” while two of his companions stood outside the premises. However, when brought to the UPD police station, he claimed that he was only looking for his colleagues.
On November 15, 2019, Balay Mindanaw Foundation Incorporated (BMFI) planned to file a complaint against authorities who entered into their Balay Mindanaw Peace Center compound and illegally checked the belongings of its guests at the lobby. According to a report, the intrusion was an “illegal search” as the policemen did not have a search warrant. They were also described to have entered the premises without introducing themselves and left without saying any word.
On February 07, 2020, AlterMidya Network Correspondent Frenchiemae Cumpio and Human Rights Leaders Marielle Domequil, Alexander Philip Abingunam, Mira Legion, and Marissa Cabaljao were illegally arrested in a joint raid of the military and police in Tacloban who accused them of illegal possession of firearms. However, People’s Rights Group Karapatan countered that the guns and improvised explosive devices recovered by the authorities were “planted in the rooms.”
Karapatan expressed in a Rappler report that “Cabaljao was arrested together with her one-year-old baby who was sleeping beside her when the authorities forcibly entered their office.” Moreover, the report documented that Cumpio had informed AlterMidya that she was being tailed by men riding motorcycles, whom she believed were military assets, days before the simultaneous arrests.
The recent hostage-taking crisis at V-mall on March 02, despite the motive being non identical to that of a terrorist act, might still be considered so per the proposed bill.
Under the new bill, the hostage-takers family, friends, and even on-lookers and sympathizers may be wrongly accused of supporting and inciting such acts. As the bill allows guilty by suspicion and detainment without warrant of arrest, these individuals may be subjected to harassment, detainment, and invalidation of their basic rights.
THE TERRIFYING TRUTH
The approval of the bill sets the fact that the Philippines is, in a state of “De Facto Martial Law;” and, given the country’s history, it is alarming to think that such acts like, among others, mass intimidation, mass arrests, and, worse, human rights violations are likely to occur again.
Regardless of how safe you think you are, how confined you are in the four corners of your school, your home, or your office, and how innocent you think you are, if the bill were to be enacted, everyone is vulnerable and due process for all is uncertain.
What do you think of the “Anti-Terrorism Bill”?