"I would like these groups to enlighten me as well."
Sixteen organizations led by the Makati Business Club issued the statement below calling for the non-enactment of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
Unfortunately for them, President Duterte has signed the law a week after final review by Justice Secretary Meynard Guevara and Malacanang’s legal staff. The review noted that the appeals of these organizations and a number of other individuals and organizations as well as those who barely know what’s happening in the Philippines such as Greta Thunberg, the young climate activist, were deemed unavailing or even an unwarranted interference in our internal affairs.
The signatories did not agree and maintained that it was wrong to have passed this law at all. This bothered me somehow, noting the MBC’s tagline as “The Forum For Constructive Ideas.” Maybe the authors and their advocates including this writer are unreasonable. Or even unenlightened. I want to know and be guided accordingly.
Just to get things straight and clear the air: if you are, or your company is, a member of any of these associations, kindly tell me if you were consulted or you voted for this statement or are otherwise in full agreement with this issuance. I am quite interested in the manner by which such issuances of national import from these associations not just on the anti-terror bill but on other hot-button items such as the ABS-CBN franchise issue and the guilty verdict on Maria Ressa. These unabashedly pile all kinds of blame on our elected officials and others not in sync with their point of view. They get prominently printed and widely circulated, in and out of the country. Like them, we are all so concerned about the state of our affairs, so we want to be better guided the next time we are confronted with other high-profile concerns. It can give us ideas on how best we can promote our own advocacies all in the service of our country and people as is the theme of such issuances.
I am doubly anxious to get your views specially about this issuance as I happen to basically agree with its contents albeit with some reservations which I am told can be cleared out in the implementing rules and regulations (IRR).
Did I miss the points raised by the associations? Did I read things wrong? Did I err in readily agreeing with the UN Security Council Resolution 159 definition of terrorism which was actually copy-pasted in the bill? Was I remiss in even suggesting that this enhanced “Human Security Law” would finally lead us out of the global financial services network’s “gray list” – a listing which has affected our OFWs remittances and our ability to access funds from global financial institutions? Was I just taken aback by that provision in the repealed “Human Security Law” which posited the payment by the State (by us taxpayers actually) of five hundred thousand pesos for everyday of illegal detention of suspected terrorists?
Did I naively take the word of the authors and Justice Secretary Meynard Guevara that there are a number of safeguards against unlawful arrests and detention of suspected terrorists? Was i wrong in agreeing with retired Supreme Court Justice Adolf Azcuna that the original law was so ineffectual it amounted to having no law at all? Did I simply nod to the proposition that most countries like the United States with its famous Guantanamo detention complex, Singapore and Malaysia with their internal security acts, among others, have essentially the same if not more “suppressive” laws against suspected terrorists? I really need clarity on this matter as it seems these associations have alternative facts and suppositions on how to best tackle the threat of terrorism worldwide.
In any event, since it has been signed and will be in effect fifteen days after official publication, we would like to know what provisions of the law you believe need to be clarified so the same can be incorporated in the IRR. Such clarifications may calm those who have voiced some concerns and prevent the issuance of fake news, misinterpretation and misinformation which serves no useful purpose at all.
Now, if you believe that there are provisions which need to be reviewed, amended or revised do come forward with your suggestions as well so we can submit the same to the appropriate committees in Congress for consideration. Who knows we may just be able to persuade the majority in both houses or even President Duterte himself to consider fast tracking the approval of the said amendments.
On the other hand, if you do not believe that Congress should not have passed this law at all, then kindly lend a hand to those who filed cases before the Supreme Court seeking an injunction against its implementation and pray that it be declared unconstitutional, illegal and untimely passed. as this statement insists. Otherwise, you can ask your congressman or senator to file a one-paragraph bill seeking the full and immediate junking of this law and possibly revert to the repealed and ineffectual, as Justice Azcuna noted, “Human Security Law.”
Here’s the statement and the signatories:
“We the undersigned are united in voicing our opposition in the strongest possible terms to the enactment at this time of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (House Bill 6875) recently approved by the House of Representatives on third and final reading, and a similar bill approved by the Senate (Senate Bill 1083) last February.
In these trying times of the COVID-19 pandemic, what we need is national unity. We are all suffering and fighting for survival: businesses are closing down, people are losing their jobs, those who still have jobs find it impossible to find safe transportation to work, our children are going hungry and the continuity of their education is under threat. We need to come together, united around a set of relief and recovery measures that will help us come out of this pandemic a stronger and more resilient nation.
We fully appreciate the need for peace and security in building a stronger nation. Current threats to national security are well addressed by existing laws and policies, and as such do not require urgent new legislation. And the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is highly divisive – because it poses clear and present danger to human rights enshrined in our Constitution – at a time when our nation needs to come together as one.
We strongly urge our national leaders and the private sector to be focused fully at this time on what really matters; developing policies that will address multiple socio-economic shocks resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, strengthening our health systems, improving the investment climate to create more jobs especially given many thousands of returning OFWs. These are what our country needs to pull us out of our crisis and get back on our feet.”
Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference for Human Development,
Cebu Business Club
Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA)
Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines
Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP)
Investment House Association of the Philippines (IHAP)
Institute for Solidarity in Asia
Judicial Reform Initiative (JRI)
Management Association of the Philippines (MAP)
Makati Business Club (MBC)
Philippine Business for Education (PBEd)
Philippine Ecozones Association (PHILEA)
Philippine Women’s Economic Network (PhilWEN)
Philippine Hotel Owners Association (PHOA)
Subdivision and Housing Developers Association, Inc. (SHDA)
Women’s Business Council Philippines