Saturday, March 17, 2007

Commentaries on Terrorism, the Left and the Jihad

I've been spending the last few days over at Manuel L. Quezon III's blog discussing these issues with a lively Comment Thread. A selection of the more interesting contributions follows.

The point here is that when corruption enters the picture, then the very things that should serve as safeguards -the law, legal procedures, etc.- become viewed as a means to ensuring that the law becomes yet another tool to protect the mighty and disadvantage the weak. This is at the heart of disagreements between people like myself who oppose the Anti-Terror Law, and its supporters like Philippine Commentary.
The terrorist tag is an awesome label, not least because no one would proclaim himself publicly to be a terrorist, except from within the caves of ToraBora (but not YouTube). It’s the same with communists, as even Joma bills himself largely as a “professor” or a “political consultant to the NDF peace panel.

It is for that reason that both US and EU anti-terror laws maintain official LISTS of foreign terrorist organizations and individuals that are annually reviewed by the government and legislatures as virtual extensions of the law.

So it is wrong to think that the Human Security Act can just arbitrarily designate anybody a terrorist, even though reading its rather general (and in my opinion limited and weak) definition of “terrorism” has attracted various forms of argumentum ad absurdum from lawyers like Nery Colmenares, who seems to already be preparing for a legal defense of his comrades in the various front organizations.

But let us not forget that the law still has to develop Implementing Rules and Regulations where the battle to refine and rationalize the law must continue for civil libertarians and democrats. I believe that the IRR’s should address the criticism of possible arbitrary application of the terrorist tag by mandating such open, annually approved and reviewed LISTS of who the terrorists are officially considered to be. Our first list ought to include the current lists of our allies because there is no question that terrorism recognizes no boundaries and claims no territories. Terrorism is an international network that spans the globe from Utrecht to Manila in both hemispheric directions.

Now as you know, the definition of terrorism that I prefer is my own: TERRORISM is organized crime to achieve the political and ideological end of overthrowing the legitimate government by illegitimate means.

That certainly makes terrorists out of organizations of revolutionaries, insurgents and rebels who use violence, drugs, extortion and other criminal activities to achieve their goals. So be it. They can remove the label from themselves if they win. (And before I get the usual argumentum ad absurdum comments from the thread: YES to the British, George Washington was a terrorist!) If a group gets put on a list and the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court approves it, then the law can operate in the full light of regularity.

I think the key objective of the Law is to encourage all political dissent to be within its fold and for all violent and illegal means of struggle to be shunned and condemned by all, in word and in deed.

I believe that HSA 2007 is necessary because such “encouragement” is no longer enough in the face two specific terrorist instantiations: religious jihadists and secular insurgents, who either deny their true objectives and natures or hypocritically participate in peaceful parliamentary struggle but secretly support violence or justify its use by others.

In the case or Bayan Muna, Gabriela and other orgs accused or suspected of being associated with those forces that our allies have already labelled as terrorists, it would be a simple matter to renounce the violent and illegal activities of those forces to innoculate themselves against the tag, instead of a bunch of guilty sounding gobbledygook refusing to do so for obscure and tendentious reasons.

Why is it so important to denounce and renounce the NPA and its violent insurgency? Because it is precisely the accusation that they are providing ideological and political support for the military wing that resonates with so many people which they ought squarely to face and prove to be wrong. They keep saying that as long as they don’t actually bear arms and use them they cannot be accused of supporting the violence and extortions. In that, they insult our intelligence. In that they have no credibility with the people.

In this, they are not being asked to prove their innocence, but their honesty and allegiance to the Constitution and to the God who saves it, so that we would come to support their causes and objectives too, which are noble sounding. It is their hypocrisy that most people detect and which prevents them from winning genuine popular support. It is their guilt-ridden disingenuity that is the source of their historic failure to rally the masses to their red flag.

djb, i have a problem with asking elected officials to prove their loyalty to the constitution. they took an oath to do so. neither you nor i have been asked to do that. and if you want to go down the path of rule of law, then we should presume they are true to their word. if we doubt them, then charges can be filed, and in the cases filed against satur ocampo, i’ve said let him vindicate himself in court.

as for terrorism, again we’re back to definitions and we differ on how satisfactory the definitions are.


We cannot compel anyone to prove their allegiance to the Constitution. But where large numbers of otherwise well meaning citizens come to doubt the allegiance of certain groups and individuals to the Constitution because they once took up arms against it, or get shifty eyed and mumble mumbo jumbo when politely asked if they support the NPA, it sure would help if they would just give a straight answer, as we often see Ricky Carandang, Pia Hontiveros, and the rest of our friends at ABSCBN do on tv all the time. Surely, we do have a right to ask, no? Or is not somehow politically correct to ask politicians and public officials where they stand just because they call themselves leftists? We do it all the time to other politicians and public officials. What makes Satur or the other partylist folks so special? What makes them so touchy about this that we can’t get a simple declaration from them about the NPA and its violent activities. Why do we just get a bunch of oblique or downright evasive answers.

If you ask Satur, “Do you support the NPA?” why doesn’t he say YES or NO?

If he says NO, he gets to go on with his life (unless of course you believe the CPP NPA is into extrajudicial killings of ex-comrades and rejectionists, which he himself denies.) If he says YES, then the politically correct can no longer give him the benefit of the doubt.

The fact he has never said NO only proves that his real answer is YES, by the inescapable iron logic of personal and political survival.

His silence, which of course is his right, nonetheless means it is highly likely that the answer is YES.

The Bystander:

“TERRORISM is organized crime to achieve the political and ideological end of overthrowing the legitimate government by illegitimate means. –DJB”

This is the kind of definition that is not only all-encompassing, but is downright ABSURD. If we go by this definition, Cory Aquino, Juan Ponce Enrile, Gloria Arroyo, Mike Arroyo and all those who supported EDSA 1 ans EDSA 2 are terrorists because they plotted to overthrow the existing legitimate governments. Certainly both EDSA 1 and 2 only became legit AFTER THE FACT, when the terrorist Supreme Court validated what could have been illegitimate means in the overthrow of Marcos and Estrada.

Thanks to DJB, even Bush is a terrorist (and I agree!) because they illegally invaded Iraq who had a recognized government at that time and made the international community believe that Saddam hid WMD.

It’s hard to get a conviction under the Anti-Terrorism Law. The court room would be a favorable battleground for those who oppose it.

Could you give a critique of that definition from a legal standpoint? The RICO statutes I believe give a pretty good definition of ORGANIZED CRIME as it applies to syndicates like the Mafia, whose goals are of course economic and financial power. In addition the term itself has colloquial public meaning (ie most people “know” what one is referring to whenever the termis used in most contexts). I have adopted it to apply to organized criminal syndicates whose power goals are political and ideological in nature.

But how would you improve it if you were tasked with amending the current law and the definition of terrorism therein, which I really don’t like because I don’t think “striking fear or panic” in the public is the essential goal of real terrorists. IN the case of the jihadists and the communists, I think it is the outright destruction of civilization as we know it and the establishment of a caliphate-theocracy or a totalitarian dictatorship, respectively.

Terrorists are not “demanding” the establishment of these alternative orders, they are seeking to actually bring them about by violently and utterly destroying the existing order, with or without our consent.

This link takes you to my first post on the Anti-Terrorism Law. In the last portion of the entry, I broke down the elements of the legal definition of Terrorism as follows:

1. Violation of any of penal law enumerated (rebellion, murder, etc.)
2. Sowing and creating a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace
3. For the purpose of coercing the government to give in to an unlawful demand.

Mr problem is how do you prove “widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace” in court? A lot of isolated terrorist attacks particularly those in the rural areas are not going to qualify under this definition.

Then you have the last element which is coercing the government to give in to an “unlawdul demand”. The term “unlawful” is going to give the prosecutors another headache. What happens if somebody bombs the Ombudsman for sitting on graft cases? That appears to be a lawful demand, but I think that should be terrorism too. Further, what if somebody bombs the LRT but the purpose of the attack is not disclosed to the public like the Rizal day bombings of 1999? Then the last element is not going to be met.

Elements 2 and 3 are subjective matters. That’s why prosecutors, public attorneys, human rights activists, and judges are going to spend a lot of time arguing over this definition. And given that our court system is slow, even for simple BP 22 cases, I bet we will wait ten years before the first conviction is made.


Leon said...

Here's an entry on "terrorism'/terrorism/Terrorism/plain terror from my seldom updated blog, which I thought of throwing into the pit of, in the end, harmless blog discussions that Hermogenes Esperon couldn't care less about.

marvin said...


Thre's a second part to that post Ihave above whcih got blpped by my poor internet connection in the house.

If we break dwon your definition of terrorism, the following are the elements:

1. Organized crime
2. for the purpose of achieving the political and ideological end of overthrowing the legitimate government
3. Use of illegitimate means.

The first element of organized crime, means there is a group of persons with leaders and members acting together to commit a crime. But the problem with the word crime is it encompasses all crimes, including unjust vexation, libel, adultery, (not that you would find people organizing to commit adultery), but some crimes appear to be irrelevant in terrorism.

The second element, "the purpose of achieving the political and ideological end of overthrowing the legitimate government", appears likewise to be too broad, and in fact makes the crime the same as rebellion or sedition. I think the key distinguishing mark of terrorism is the the use of "fear and panic" as an end as a tool for achieving the political and ideological prupose.

The third element, "use of illegitimate means" appear to be self-explanatory. But I'm thinking now that perhaps the element of "violence" should be a key element in the definition. If we don't put violence, it appears that the "dagdag-bawas" election cheating method of jueteng lords to get their proteges in office can qualify as terrorism. But jueteng lords are a different class of criminals altogether.

Rizalist said...

Thanks again for looking at this more closely. My caveats to your thoughtful comments:

(1) The reason I use the term "organized crime" is that it is a more commonly understood term by the public and is dealt with in US law under the RICO statutes. I use it to draw a direct analogy with "economic mafias" and other organized crime syndicates because both the jihadist and communist insurgents which are certainly the implicit targets of the new legislation (Human Security Act of 2007) share in the secretive nature of those organized crime families and gangs whose principal activities and "tools" are indeed a wide plethora of crimes and vices like gambling, prostitution, extortion, murder, kidnapping, etc. At the same time, we need to recognize a big difference between conventional mafias and these terrorist mafias in that the latter have largely political and ideological goals which the former do not. Indeed, they are very different in this sense. The economic mafias do not want a change in the society and civilization as a matter of course, but rather they feed off the corruption as well as general atmosphere of freedoms and "pursuit of happiness" in open societies. Even in totalitarian societies like Russia and China, they can coexist with the existing political system just as well as in capitalist countries. Not so with terrorists in general who are at war with those societies and want to radically alter the social and political systems.. Thus the second element of my definition. Regarding "fear and panic" aspect of HSA2007's definition of terrorism, I don't believe that sowing such fear and panic is the main objective of the terrorists, even if that is an objective effect of their attacks and threats. That is only secondary to their aims, the principal one being to literally destroy the existing order and to replace it with a caliphatic theocracy or totalitarian dictatorship. Most ordinary crimes instill some level of fear and panic, many with the same amount as terrorists, but this aspect of it only muddles the issue to some extent.

Thanks for clarifying something for me regarding the third element. I agree that perhaps instead of the general "illegitimate means" phrase I've used, it would be more direct to say violent means, because indeed that is the principal means by which jihadists and communists are using to gain their ends. However, I would add as elements of terrorist activities, logistical, financial, and even political support for violent means. Other commenters have suggest the term "paramilitary" instead of just violence, because this would include all aspects of an armed struggle, including support systems in the open society which are indeed being used by both the jihadists and communists to sustain their armies.

So yes, that was a very good observation that the element of violence become an explicit part of an expanded definition.