"The terror tag would not be around to be potentially abused, if there were no terrorists to begin with that need to be tagged. It’s just that simple."
First off, welcome back to the world of print, Manila Standard!
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Anytime this week, the President is expected to sign into law the new Anti-Terrorism Bill, SB 1083/HB 6875, which he certified as urgent and therefore passed both houses of Congress by hefty margins.
The bill has raised howls of protest, not just predictably from the CPP-NPA and its front organizations in the NDF, but also from guileless quarters who’re concerned about government overreach and infringement of rights. These protestants might be reassured that the House version tags as terrorists only those suspected of committing the following acts:
Intended to cause death or serious physical injury to another
Intended to cause extensive damage to a government facility or to public and private property
Intended to damage critical infrastructure, such as…telecoms, water and energy supply, emergency services, fuel supply, banking, transportation, radio and television
Develop, possess, acquire, transport or use deadly explosive weapons
Release dangerous substances, or cause fires and floods…to intimidate the public, government, or any international organizations.
Note that the bill does NOT target “advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass actions, other similar exercises of civil and political rights.”
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Some critics object to the idea of being targeted based simply on “suspicion.” They seem to ignore—perhaps wilfully—that any law enforcement effort by definition starts with suspicion. How else do you single out one person from everybody else?
What’s important is that the suspect thereafter enjoys due process as he goes through the mill of justice. There are no substantive objections to the anti-terror bill on this ground. For example, if one objects to lengthening the allowed detention period without being charged, from 14 to 21 days, it should be noted that other countries in our region allow even longer detention periods, in one case up to two years, extendible.
In fact, other critics have stopped criticizing the bill itself, preferring to claim instead that while the bill may be acceptable on its face, what’s bothersome is the potential for abuse by government in the execution of the law.
This is understandable. It can be conceded that the PNP and some other government agencies charged with enforcing the law and administering justice have had their share of scalawags and screws-ups. They may still be works in progress. But if we extend this reasoning, we might as well close down the BIR and Customs too because of persistent problems with corruption and under-collection.
Some government functions are too important to be judged solely by the misconduct of a few. Taxation is one such. Certainly fighting terrorism has to be just as vital.
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In fact, what needs to be asked is why, up to now, fighting terrorism is still so important for us. To some extent, the problem has already been resolved, such as through the successful reintegration of the Muslim separatists in the MILF and MNLF. But even there, terror groups like the Abu Sayyaf and other local cut-outs of the international jihadist movement persist.
The overhang that has blighted legitimate social protest in this country for half a century is the intransigence of the CPP-NPA-NDF. The CPP has been legalized for many years now, the old Anti-Subversion Law repealed. NDF-affiliated party-listers in the dozens now abound in Congress. Duterte even flirted early in his term with the admission of NDF leaders into his very Cabinet.
And yet the NPA still roams the countryside, very much alive and well. They may just be a bunch of extortionists by now, “roving rebels” to use Mao-speak. Or they may still be true to their Maoist roots and its remaining guru holed up in the Netherlands. Does it matter? It’s their behavior, their violence directed at legal authority, their killing of men in uniform never mind civilians caught in the crossfire—that’s the only thing that matters.
The NDF cannot go around pleading for human rights when the CPP ideology scorns the concept as “bourgeois law.” The NPA cannot deny that they’ve already been branded as terrorists by the US, the EU, and the UN. The whole lot of them cannot claim to be champions of the people in the face of an uprising against them by parents whose children—none of them over the age of consent—were taken away by recruiters for the NPA’s “child soldiers.”
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The onus in anti-terror is not on government. The onus falls instead on legitimate civil society, to rid its ranks of these violent people and their comrades who shield them in the “parliamentary struggle.” The terror tag would not be around to be potentially abused, if there were no terrorists to begin with that need to be tagged. It’s just that simple.
Readers can write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.