Just a friendly invitation to you beheaders in Basilan, from your future room and bunkmates in a Cebu penitentiary.
It is of course difficult to understand why a country like the Philippines, which was attacked by Al Qaeda long before 9/11, only now passed anti-terrorism legislation, first proposed by Juan Ponce Enrile following the first World Trade Center bombings which were hatched, planned and launched from some brothel or condo in Malate or Makati.
Unlike almost every other country in the global anti-terrorist alliance, the Philippine Republic faces not one, not two, but three major threats to the very survival of its duly constituted government and its democratic political system. Various groups such as CPP-NPA, the MILF, the MNLF, the Abu Sayyaf Group, the Jemaah Islamiyah, and Al-Qaeda have long term objectives to which ends they employ a variety of legal and illegal means and methods:
(1) They use or threaten to use deadly violence, especially against civilians. They maintain guerrilla units, irregular armed forces, subterranean cells and networks of agents and cadre, ready to carry out essentially violent, paramilitary operations, (including the treacherous ambush and savage mass beheading of uniformed Philippine Marines, the kidnapping of big and tall Christian missionaries, and the rape and "wifing" of innocent young women). Kidnapping for ransom is a major source of livelihood, as well as highly organized extortion and protection rackets, alleged drug manufacturing and distribution, and various other criminal enterprises.
(2) They develop and deploy powerful domestic and transnational propaganda machines and front organizations that project positions, demands, rationalizations and provide cover, financing, logistics and communications channels for the most dangerous and committed of the core and leading elements of each threat group.
At this point, several questions suggest themselves:
Why have these groups been able to achieve such longevity? With such passion and noble intentions, why have groups like the CPP NPA neither won nor lost their people's revolutionary war in nearly half a century of trying? Why have they not in fact won over the hearts and minds of the Filipino people to their perfervid cause and achieved glorious victory by now? Conversely, why have these movements survived the persistent attempts of the government to neutralize them militarily and to neutralize them politically?
Why can neither side seem to win or seem to lose?!
Some people would say the durability of the communist insurgency is due to "root causes" and even justify the existence and operations of such groups as legitimate or unavoidable responses to persistent poverty and injustice. But such arguments leave me cold, since I think there will always be some root cause for human dissatisfaction or outrage, but that can never justify the methods being employed to achieve even noble sounding goals.
So I think we should not ascribe to root causes the longevity of an insurgency that has no hope of winning since the Filipino people have rejected them along with most of the rest of humanity. There is also the proven technology of guerrilla warfare itself, in which a very small group of people can indeed survive for a very long time without achieving outright victory, yet preventing the established government from either eliminating them or succeeding in its own tasks.
All of our famous insurgent groups provide a major source of livelihood to their recruits and fighters in the large scale criminal enterprises of extortion, protection rackets, blackmail, kidnapping for ransom and even alleged drug dealing and manufacturing. They all do a heck of a lot more these sorts of things--to put bread on the insurgent table--than any patriotic revolutionizing.
Throughout the years, the government's response to these serious and deadly threats have been either "all-out war" or "peace talks" neither of which seems to be working out very well, considering how long in the tooth the communist and Moro insurgencies have lasted. An interesting recent development has been the involvement of foreign third parties and organizations in the RP-Insurgent "peace talks" notably Norway and the Netherlands in the case of the CPP-NPA and Malaysia and the Organization of Islamic Conf-erence in the case of the MILF-ASG.
During the recent unpleasantries involving the Moro Islamic Liberation Front one thing has become clear to many people about those peace talks with the folks that want to turn Mindanao into Bangsamorostan. It is simply this. Whether or not PEACE TALKS are held and succeed depends not only on the Philippine Government, but also on the MILF. If they are busy beheading our soldiers, denying the atrocities and harboring fugitives from human decency, if they refuse to surrender the already identified perpetrators of those decapitations, it seems to me perverse and self-defeating for us to be crying loudly about "saving the peace talks," or "maintaining an open mind." Likewise, the CPP-NPA has cynically used the interminable peace talks with the government as an international soap-box for Jo-Mao's peculiar brand of remote control revolution and ongoing propaganda.
Is there an alternative to the vicious cycle between "all out war" and "peace talks" in resolving the communist insurgency, Moro secessionism and the global jihad? Is there an alternative to what is essentially an almost purely defensive military response to insurgent challenges that are far more sophisticated politically and highly adept at propaganda and media exploitation?
I think there is. It is called the Human Security Act of 2007 and it changes the entire strategy for dealing with all three of the major terrorist threat groups.
HSA 2007 substitutes LAW ENFORCEMENT and INTELLIGENCE GATHERING for the current vicious cycle of ALL-OUT WAR and PEACE TALKS.
By defining a new category of violent, organized crime, we make illegal and illegitimate the most destructive of the "means and methods" employed by all three threat groups, without necessarily proscribing their ideologies or objectives.
Now of course in the particular case of the groups already mentioned, the OBJECTIVES of the core and leading groups are themselves explicitly illegitimate, since they all seek to overthrow the Philippine government and political system, putting in its place either a Worker's Paradise or Bangsamorostan within a greater Maphilindostan.
However, it also happens that each of these terrorist corps are also part of a continuous social spectrum of persons, organizations, movements and persuasions, not all of whom share the maximum program of these groups, even if they may be in open sympathy and support for them.
HSA 2007 is like the Plunder Law, which also created a distinct and separate new category of criminal activity that was composed of other criminal acts already punished separately under the Revised Penal Code and other laws. The Human Security Act of 2007 also defines a new category of crime in which the crime is the pattern and series of acts performed by a combination of people conspiring to commit such acts, or cause them to be done by others, with the clear intent of "coercing the government to give in to an illegal demand" -- i.e., some monumental political or ideological objective.
I don't think it represents a very high order of abstraction to assert that existing laws against those component crimes are necessary but not sufficient to deal with the problem in its entirety. The whole of the insurgent enterprise is far greater than the sum of its parts. Like organized crime families such as Mafia, it is the family that counts, not its individual members.
HSA defines three elements of the crime of terrorism. First, acts already punished by the Revised Penal Code and other laws. Second, the intent to coerce the government into some demand; and third the element of fear and panic:
Clearly, we do not want the populace to BE terrorized by acts of terror intended to have that effect on them of inciting widespread and extraordinary fear and panic. Therefore, I think that any reasonable interpretation of this element of the new crime must be taken to mean that a clear INTENT to sow and create such fear and panic must be established to prosecute for a crime of terrorism. As Prof. Clarita Carlos of UP pointed out on tv recently, this area of "intent" and "motivation" is a very tricky and gray area of the Law. I agree. But I think that is merely the challenge of prosecuting this new crime under a new law that David Llorito in the Comment Thread describes as a Terrorists Bill of Rights.
Any person who commits an act punishable under any of the following provisions of the Revised Penal Code: thereby sowing and creating a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace, in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand"
I think there would be cases in which the nature of the acts themselves would bespeak of such malevolent intent. For example, suppose the food or water supply were attacked with toxic agents or radioactive material scattered around in public places. Such acts would be construed as redolent of the intent to create and sow fear and panic, EVEN IF it does not actually succeed and the people don't stampede.
Speaking of communists here is PDI Money's Honesto General lambasting the CBCP for its perpetual silence when it comes to the CPP NPA. Choice quote:
The bishops have not been able to keep their mouths shut on almost any publicity. But, incredibly, the CBCP has not said one single word about the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People’s Army (NPA) and the communist groups in the cities, such as Bayan Muna, Akbayan, Partido ng Manggagawa, Anak Pawis, Gabriela and Migrante (have I missed anyone?).
It looks like the CBCP views these communist groups in the cities as part of the democratic scene. If so, CBCP is looking at the communist problem from the wrong end.