Monday, July 9, 2007

The Anti-Anti-Terrorist Law

CRITICS of the Human Security Act of 2007 (Republic Act 9372, the Anti-terrorism Law) are decrying all the terrible things that Government and law enforcement agencies can potentially do to human rights and human beings with the new law, such as wiretapping, surveillance, and interception of communications, warrantless arrests with detention for up three whole days (imagine that!) and various other special powers and prerogatives. For example, Rep. Neri Colmenares has a problem with the "contextual background" of the law, which is, that it is being implemented by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, whose autocratic ways may be her only legacy. But she has less than three years to go now, her star is waning and the problems of terrorism will be there long after she is gone.

Yet the War on Terrorism, even its critics agree, ought to involve a heck of a lot more intelligence gathering, prevention and interdiction of terrorist plans, cells and activities. I think it is in order to enable and expand the intelligence capabilities of law enforcement that certain provisions have been adopted in the new law about to come into effect.

As a concrete example, the effort to rescue the kidnapped Italian priest, Father Giancarlo Bossi, from the clutches of the Abu Sayyaf (which has mutated to that in the Main Stream News from being a "lost command" of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front) could benefit from some of the new features introduced by the law with regards to the interception of communications. It seems self-serving and almost vain for some folks with no real connection to terrorist activities to be worrying about their cell phone being bugged when Fr. Bossi could be beheaded at any moment.

ANY law can be abused but against such a terrible threats to civil liberty and human rights as a law on terrorism, Senate Minority leader Aquilino Pimentel and his sidekick, Jamby Madrigal (clearly another Patty Hearst in the making), claim no less than 62 amendments to the original anti-terrorism bill to ensure the protection of our people's human rights. These happen to include such giant loopholes as would accomodate a truck bomb:

(1) the Law is automatically suspended for three months around every election;

SEC (62) Thereafter, the provisions of this Act shall be automatically suspended one month before and two months after the holding of any election.

(2) Intelligence and surveillance operations cannot be conducted upon "lawyers and their clients" -- "doctors and their patients" -- "journalists and their sources"-- "confidential business correspondence";

Section (7) Provided, That surveillance, interception and recording of communications between lawyers and clients, doctors and patients, journalists and their sources and confidential business correspondence shall not be authorized.

(3) Half a million pesos per day penalty against law enforcers who make arrests and detentions that don't lead to conviction!

SEC. 41. Disposition of the Seized, Sequestered and Frozen Bank Deposits, Placements, Trust Accounts, Assets and Record. –.... Upon his or her acquittal or the dismissal of the charges against him or her, the amount of Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P500,000.00) a day for the period in which his properties, assets or funds were seized shall be paid to him on the concept of liquidated damages. The amount shall be taken from the appropriations of the police or law enforcement agency that caused the filing of the enumerated charges against him or her.

As one reads the law that was so powerfully modified by Pimentel and Jamby, I get the sneaking suspicion that their amendments to it make it an anti-anti-terrorist law. Their safeguards on human rights are more like manacles on the anti-terrorist agencies and personnel.

The law is bristling with bad faith on their part.

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