'Vigilance is the price of freedom'

posted June 26, 2020 at 12:05 am
by  Ernesto M. Hilario
"Retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio thinks the anti-terror bill will result in a permanent situation worse than martial law."


Retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, with his long experience in the judiciary, is perhaps in the best position to dissect the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which he did in a recent forum.

Carpio believes that the proposed measure, once it takes effect, will not only resurrect memories of one-man rule in the 1970s up to the mid-80s, but also result in a "permanent situation in the Philippines that is worse than martial law."

Carpio cited key differences between the martial law provision in the 1987 Constitution and the Anti-Terrorism Act.

First, under the 1987 Constitution, the president can declare martial law and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus for no more than 60 days. The Anti-Terrorism Act, however, remains in the statute books unless repealed by Congress or invalidated by the Supreme Court.

Second, under martial law, when the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is suspended and allows warrantless arrests, a person accused of rebellion must be charged in court 3 days from arrest, otherwise he should be released. Under the Anti-Terrorism Act, a person or organization tagged as “terrorist” may be detained without hearing and formal charges for up to 24 days, or longer than the 3 days under martial law.

Third, while the person arrested for terrorism can, at any time during the 24 days, file a petition for habeas corpus, if the custodian shows the written authority of the Anti-Terrorism Council to the judge that there is an order for his arrest because he is a “terrorist,” then the judge would be compelled to dismiss the petition because the person is being detained “upon a lawful order pursuant to law.”

The proposed measure “demolishes fortresses” in the Constitution that protect the “inviolable” right against unreasonable arrest. Under the present Constitution, only a judge can issue a warrant of arrest. This ‘fortress’ must be inviolable. The Anti-Terrorism Act will demolish the first ‘fortress’ and reinstate the dreaded ASSOs (arrest, search and seizure orders) of the Marcos era.

Fourth, the power granted to the Anti-Terrorism Council, whose members will be drawn from the executive department, to order arrests without court warrant also “demolishes” the constitutional guarantee that probable cause must first be established as prerequisite to the issuance of a warrant.

And fifth, the proposed measure in its current form will threaten the freedom of speech and of the press in the 2022 presidential elections. While the Human Security Act of 2007 provides for the automatic suspension of the law one month before the elections, and two months after, the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 does not have such provision.

Carpio concludes: “If we do not want to experience a contraction of our civil liberties, we must all work to have the objectionable provisions in the Anti-Terrorism Act invalidated by the Supreme Court or repealed by Congress. Vigilance is the price of freedom.”

From the House of Representatives comes another dissenting view.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, a vocal opponent of the bill, said there should be no room for ambiguity in the interpretation of any measure that might threaten or compromise the freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

The lawmaker pointed out that safeguards in the anti-terrorism bill cited by its proponents are no more than “motherhood statements” with no real teeth.

We agree with the views of these two lawyers and others who have emphasized that the definitions of acts of terrorism in the bill are too broad and allowed too many interpretations that these could pave the way for human rights abuses.

Jovito Salonga remembered

The family and friends of the late statesman and lawyer Jovito Salonga gathered last Monday to commemorate what would have been his 100th birthday.

Salonga, who was born on June 22, 1920, obtained his law degree from the University of the Philippines, then went to Harvard University for his Masters and to Yale for his doctorate.

Salonga was first elected senator in 1965. He ran for re-election in 1971. Along with some members of the Liberal Party, he was critically injured in the August 21 bombing of his party's proclamation rally at Plaza Miranda, but topped the senatorial race for the second time.

The lawmaker opposed the imposition of martial law in 1972 and was jailed twice for doing so. After the1986 People Power revolt, he was appointed chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), which was tasked with investigating and recovering the alleged ill-gotten wealth of Ferdinand E. Marcos and cronies.

Salonga served as the 14th President of the Senate from 1987 to 1992. In September 1991, he led a group of 12 Senators in rejecting the R.P.-U.S. Military Bases Treaty. He ran for the presidency in 1992, running under the banner of the Liberal Party with PDP-Laban's Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel Jr. as his running mate, but ended up sixth in a seven-person race in the official tally.

Salonga received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service on August 31, 2007. He was honored for "the exemplary integrity and substance of his long public career in service to democracy and good government in the Philippines". He died on March 10, 2016 due to cardiac arrest.

Salonga's distinguished career as a senator of the realm leaves us wondering to what depths the current Senate has plunged in terms of its capability to defend the national interest and to serve the public good. You can really count on the fingers of one hand those who truly deserve to sit in the Upper Chamber.

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Topics: Ernesto Hilario , Retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio , Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 , martial law , 1987 Constitution , Jovito Salonga
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