BSCBN TV reports that a Bicameral Conference Committee of the Philippine Congress has just passed an anti-terrorism bill--the Human Security Act of 2007. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is expected to sign the measure into law shortly, almost certainly with brickbats and ongoing criticism from the usual sources, especially the armed Left and its supporters. Akbayan Rep. Etta Rosales was on television already allowing a clueless ANC anchor Chiqui Roa to sow the misconception that somehow the law could allow the government to designate anybody a terrorist and detain or arrest him as such. I haven't looked at the final version of the law, but from everything I've seen thus far, the various amendments by the likes of Sen. Jamby Madrigal and Nene Pimentel, it is a weak law. As an example, terrorist suspects may be held for interrogation and investigation for only three days instead of the original fifteen days in an earlier version. When asked by Roa in a somewhat sarcastic manner whether the ordinary Juan de la Cruz should now feel safer because of the bill's passage, even sponsor Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile had to answer with irony that there are so many safeguards of civil liberties in it that the citizenry should certainly feel safer from the police and other law enforcement agencies charged with implementing the law.
The CPP-NPA is surely going to go ballistic over the bill's passage since they have landed in US and EU terrorist lists five or six times in a row in annual updates of those lists, costing them millions of dollars annually in donations from international left sources, mainly in Europe. The domestic anti-terrorism law will further criminalize their fund-raising activities in the archipelago, such as their extortion and protection rackets, collection of "revolutionary tactics" and permission to campaign "fees" during elections periods.
In a curious report, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales claims that the CPP-NPA is planning to assassinate former President Joseph Estrada to destabilize the nation ahead of the May 14 midterm elections. Erap lawyer Rufus Rodriguez opines that the claim is being done in order to heighten security around Erap so as to isolate him from political supporters who are organizing a Senate slate that looks set for a landslide victory at the May polls.
Speaking of which, a major development just this afternoon is that both Erap's wife, Senator Loi Ejercito and their son, San Juan Mayor J.V. Ejercito -- both of whom are polling within the Magic 12 of likely winners -- will NOT be running on the United Opposition slate. Speculation on Ellen Tordesillas' blog is that Sonia Roco, widow of former Sen. Raul Roco, one of Erap's Edsa Dos nemeses, could possibly take one of the four remaining slots on the UNO slate. Lito Anzures, spokesman for UNO head Makati Mayor Jojo Binay, said the move shows how deep the Opposition bench is, that they do not have to rely just on winnability in their choices, and that the Opposition intends to appeal to a broad political spectrum. It is the first sign I have seen that the Opposition is getting smart about the coming midterm elections.