The political opposition has been blocking passage of a Philippines anti-terrorism bill ever since President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo committed the government to the US-led global war on terrorism, on civil libertarian grounds and fears that such a law will be used against legitimate critics of the government. Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel, with sidekick Jamby Madrigal assisting, succeeded in getting 96 amendments into the Anti-terrorism bill, which Monday passed both House and Senate meeting in special session, and hundreds more are apparently in the bill from the House process.
"Weak" is not enough of a criticism, because it's really quite a dumb bill as a result of some of those amendments, for example...
(1) There is a 500,000 peso fine per day against the government for any unlawful or illegal arrest, which civil libertarians may applaud since it might make the cops think more than twice before arresting or detaining a real terror operative. The bill's author, Juan Ponce Enrile has been quoted as saying he acceded to the demand by Pimentel for this provision just to cut debate short and get the bill passed, but admits it seems excessive. It also sends the message that the authorities are really not to be trusted with such a draconian measure placed over their heads as a means of deterring carelessness or mistakes when detaining terrorist suspects. While there are surely bad eggs, lots of them in the police and military who are fighting the terrorists, this hardly supports the efforts of the good honest men and women undertaking these tasks at risk to their own lives and limbs. I bet the provision gets used by the Left to intimidate the authorities and "innoculate" their fronts and above-ground cadre in the media and mass organizations.
(2) Terrorist operatives will love this: One month before and two months after every election, the Anti-Terrorism Law gets suspended! This is a tacit accusation, built right into the law, that it might be abused for partisan political purposes, which again, is the kind of self-mockery that has resulted from the Pimentel and Madrigal amendments.
(3) If you happen to BE a terrorist, you can always work with journalists, doctors and lawyers, who are exempted from the law's provisions on compulsory disclosures to lawful authorities.
(4) I haven't seen the version that was finally passed, but I do believe the period of detention of terrorist suspects before being charged in Court is only three days, before they have to be deported back to the waiting arms of the Jemaah Islamiyah at government expense, as happened to Mrs. Dulmatin a few months back.
This is all the doing of Aquilino Pimentel Jr., our resident genius on safeguarding civil liberties presumably because he was several times arrested and jailed by the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Never mind that the terrorists are blowing us up on ferry boats, crowded commuter trains and and public markets, and using remote-controlled landmines on innocent victims, and kidnapping people from beach resorts. He has to have his amendments that "safeguard liberty."
Strange how he is now allied with Sen. Jamby Madrigal, the daughter of one of Marcos' big-time cronies but who is herself lost in a romantic leftist fantasyland of the mind. According to this news report, Jamby is going to the Supreme Court to question the Constitutionality of the new law --
But Sen. Anna Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal remains opposed and plans to question the bill before the Supreme Court, pointing to some provisions which she describes as unconstitutional. “The bill is not about national security because we don’t have terrorism problems,” says Madrigal. She points out that what the nation needs is tighter implementation of existing laws and more intelligence gathering. “The bill is about legitimizing Gloria Arroyo’s muzzling her political enemies.”With such bright senators as these, who needs the Abu Sayyaf and the Jemaah Islamiyah anyway?
Not to be outdone is Senator Mar Roxas, (already being touted for President in 2010 (if he ever gets the guts to marry Korina Sanchez and she snaps her brain stem agreeing), who explains his vote against the anti-terror law like this:
Transcript of Senator Roxas’ Explanation of Vote Against Anti-Terrorism BillThe Analects of Confucius!
“In my reading of the “Analects of Confucius”, there is a portion there where Confucius we must be very careful how we define a problem because that problem definition will likewise define the proposed solution to that problem.
“In this instance, Mr. President, there is the problem of global terrorism, which no one deny exists; it wreaks havoc; it kills and maims people—the innocents in particular. However, Mr. President, I voted in the negative—I voted no—to the passage of this measure because I do not believe that the weakest link in our battle against terrorism lies in our not having an appropriate law to combat terrorism.
“We cannot defend our liberty by forsaking freedom.
“Mr. President, dear colleagues, we cannot be more secure if our civil liberties are less secure.
“In our country’s battle against terrorism, Mr. President, we note, for example, that the very basic . . . very back-to-basic-sort of items that otherwise would have been in our cover, in our tool box against terrorism, are not in place.
“The computers, for example, of one agency, such as the Bureau of Immigration, do not speak with the computers of the NBI, or with the computers of the agency that issues and monitors drivers’ licenses, or those of the PNP, or AFP.
“It would seem to me, Mr. President, that these—attending to these—matters; these of having the computers speak to one another, the appropriate training of our people; the providing of equipment for forensics, and for law enforcement all across the country, will have much greater impact and thus contribute to a much greater success to our battle against terrorism.
“Mr. President, in my work here in the Senate, I always use as standard what I would do if faced with this problem. In this instance, Mr. President, I do not believe that the passage of a law that curtails civil liberties is what we need to be able to address terrorism. It might make a contribution here and there but certainly, the damage that it does would certainly be much worse than whatever meager or marginal contribution that it will make.
“Mr. President, the battle is always constant, as between the citizens’ civil liberties and the government’s right to protect and defend the State. And in that seesaw, in that battle of rights of the citizens versus the State defending itself, it is always important that we strike the appropriate balance. In this instance, Mr. President, without having appropriately and effectively addressed all of the other issues with respect to training, computers, with respect to all other elements necessary for an effective battle against terrorism, then simply passing a law that reduces civil liberties in the hope that it will become an effective tool is not correct.
“And so therefore, I vote NO against the measure.
“Thank you, Mr. President.”
Well, at least the name he drops is not Sun Tzu and the profound literary matter not The Art of War, though I would say Confucius and Mar's clumsy attempt to seem erudite and studious is just as hackneyed and droll as if he did. After his quotation of Confucius' comment on "defining a problem" right in the lead of the Press Release, I thought for sure he would be wading around in the quaqmire of the question, "How do we define "terrorism?"
Instead, Mar presents the utterly weak argument that we don't have the equipment, training or facilities needed for an effective battle against terrorism. So why pass a law we cannot effectively enforce, he asks? I say, why not properly fund and facilitate the law and give it every chance of being effective?
In my opinion, all three of these Senators have missed an essential point about the Anti-terrorism Law. It's not really a law that seeks to create a new or special category of crime or criminal activity. Rather it is an unconventional means of declaring war on an enemy that is not a conventional State Power or imperialist Empire. This is the real reason why those in the Senate who've opposed the bill cannot seem to understand why the existing laws against crimes like murder, kidnapping, mayhem and other historical components of a terrorist act are not sufficient to wage the war on terrorism. Like Jamby says, we don't have a terrorism problem -- so indeed why do we need an anti-terrorism law to wage war upon it?