Joint Position Paper on the Anti-Terrorism Bills
May 16, 2003
Omen, labor, peasant and other human
rights groups condemn acts of
terrorism, especially as it victimizes the poor, powerless, and
marginalized of society. In
the same breadth, we condemn Senate Bill No. 2540 and House Bill No. 5923
(the “Terror Bills”) which have two (2) fatal flaws:
they are unnecessary and too open for abuse.
proposed law is superfluous.
While a grave threat to civil liberties and political rights of the
Filipino people, who fought for decades for the restoration and guarantee
of such fundamental human rights.
express grave concern as House Bill No. 5923 and its counterpart version
in the Senate is being rushed by the legislature, upon the prodding of the
President and the strong lobby of the USAID.
We express alarm as this comes in the wake of the passage of
similar bills in Japan, Korea and the processing of the same in other
parts of Asia. Of course, we
already know of the US passing the Patriot Act and the Homeland Security
Act, a few weeks after 9/11 and urging other nations to fight
“terrorism.” The context
by which the bill is being rushed is simple and clear – a US-led
campaign on terrorism. By US
standards, the campaign has targeted “irresponsible states” towards
the “prevention of war,” classifying Iraq among the former.
Within states, the campaign has targeted “terrorist
individuals”, of Moslem background or of simply foreign origin –
“suspicious neighbors”. The campaign has revitalized in their ugliest forms, racism
Terror Bills are Unnecessary
he Bills wrongly assume that manifestations of terrorism are not punished
or covered by current laws. On
the contrary, the abductions, deaths and destruction often cited by
Congress as justification for the Terror Bills are all punished by current
law. Even the act of giving
assistance, financial or otherwise, to terrorists fall well within the
present penal framework. Even following the Declaration on Measures to
Eliminate International Terrorism, acts of terrorism are already covered
by existing laws such as the Revised Penal Code (RPC):
Crimes Against Public Order, Persons, Liberty and Personal
Security, Property; as well as RA 6235 (Anti-Hijacking Law), PD 1727
(Declaring as Unlawful the Malicious Dissemination of False Information or
the Willful Making of Any Threat Concerning Bombs, Explosives or Any
Similar Device or Means of Destruction and Imposing Penalties Therefor),
RA 8294 (Illegal Possession of Firearms).
short, the Philippines does not lack of penal legislation.
It does suffer, however, from a severe lack of law enforcement,
especially in the aspects involving the investigation of terrorist acts,
and the identification, location, and apprehension of terrorists.
It is law enforcement, not the existence of laws, which has been
the crucial element missing from the state campaign against terrorism.
instance, in the case of the Abu Sayyaf, a group widely accepted as a
terrorist organization, few will insist that the problem with the Abu
Sayyaf is that there is no law punishing the abductions, murders, theft,
and destruction perpetrated by the group. In fact, current law covers their acts and even allows for
the death penalty to be imposed.
Terror Bills, which Congress threatens to pass, miss this crucial point
and assume that we need a new law defining and punishing “terrorism.”
We submit that the Terror Bills are unnecessary;
no new legislation is needed to address the problems caused by terrorist
groups. What is needed is the
strict and honest implementation of existing laws.
The Terror Bills are Too Open for Abuse
the core of the defect of the Terror Bills is the definition of
“Terrorism.” It is too
broad and consequently infringes upon the citizen’s fundamental rights
involving free speech, assembly and association, freedom against
unreasonable searches and seizures and the right to privacy.
Consider the following:
The definition of
“terrorism” can cover a broad range of act(s) which aim to influence
government. This contravenes
our democratic tradition where citizens have the duty to seek redress of
their grievances and express their ideas to the government which merely
represents them. Hence, under
the Terror Bills, as drafted, popular actions cease to be peaceful
expressions of people’s sentiment, and become acts of terrorism.
Ultimately, the Terror Bills will curtail - not terrorism which is
already punished by present law – but people’s actions to express
themselves, especially when they take their government to account.
To make matters worse,
“terrorism” as defined by the Terror Bills not only covers consummated
acts or those already manifested through overt acts, but also those which
merely “threaten” terrorism. Given
the already broad range of acts which are made to fall under
“terrorism”, the inclusion of mere “threats” of such acts further
widens the scope of acts punished even further.
Applied to real life, not only are demonstrations by the people
considered terrorist acts but the mere threat that such demonstrations
will be conducted is considered as terrorism already.
Nothing can stifle the exercise of freedom of expression more than
such absurdly draconian measures.
We note that the Terror Bills
propose that terrorism as defined therein calls for the application of R.A.
9160 as amended (the Anti-Money Laundering Act), and R.A. 4200 (the
Anti-Wire Tapping Act). This
simply means that the funds, property, and communication of a person who
is suspected of being a terrorist (under the Terror Bills’ broad
definitions this can be anyone) can be subject of search and even seizure
by law enforcement authorities. We
oppose such unprecedented intrusion into people’s right to privacy.
People will hardly feel more secure when the authority to conduct
such a high degree of interference is entrusted to law enforcement
agencies and the judiciary.
We further note that the
Terror Bills extend the inquest period for those accused of terrorism to
fifteen (15) days. This means
that suspected terrorists can be held without formal charge for more than
two (2) weeks. We emphasize
the importance of the right to a preliminary investigation or inquest as
soon as possible after arrest, which has long protected those wrongly
accused of unnecessary detention. There
is nothing in the crime of terrorism which should erode this safeguard.
On the contrary, given the broad and vague definition of terrorism
as well as the government’s continuing penchant to accuse persons
wrongly, the security provided by the right to preliminary investigation
or inquest should be strengthened.
he national situation, beset as it is by threats and overt acts of
terrorism, has to address squarely its problems of law enforcement and
corruption in the military establishment. As it is, acts of terrorism (as
already penalized in the RPC) are not investigated thoroughly, law
enforcement operations are not transparent, and military operations such
as that in Mindanao go overboard worsening distrust among groups of people
struggling for self-determination.
Terror Bills now pending in Congress and certified as urgent by President
Arroyo miss the point that acts of terrorists are already punished by
statute. What is worse, the
Terror Bills erode the rights guaranteed by the Constitution as being
indispensable to the maintenance of a democratic and free society. People should remain free to express themselves without fear
of being tagged as terrorists and held for an extended period of time.
People should continue to be able to influence government policy
without fear that their communication will be tapped.
If only the present laws are honestly enforced, and government
agents are free from suspicion that they collude with terrorists, there
will be no need to concoct a new crime called terrorism.
By being unnecessary and too open for abuse, the Terror Bills
should be junked.
Citizens Action Party
of Progressive Labor (APL)
ng Kababaihan - Olongapo
Against Trafficking in Women (CATW)
for Agrarian Reform Empowerment and Transformation (CARET)
for Migrants Advocacy – Philippines (CMA-Phils.)
of Independent Unions in the Public Sector (CIU)
of Politics and Governance (IPG)
Education and Research Network (LEARN)
Kababaihan Mithi ay Paglaya (MAKALAYA)
Association for Regional and International Networking Organization
Marine Overseas Association (MMOA)
Union of Workers in Hotel Restaurant and Allied Industries (NUWHRAIN)
Katipunan ng mga Samahan sa Kanayunan (PKSK)
Global Exchange (PGX)
Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)
Human Rights Information Center (PhilRights)
Tinig at Lakas ng Anak Pawis (PIGLAS)
Education, Development and Productivity, Research and Advocacy Org. (WEDPRO)
Alliance of Progressive
Labor (APL) 2003