Saturday, July 7, 2007

What is YOUR Definition of Terrorism?

Senator Aquilino Pimentel and Atty. Neri Colmenares were on Ricky Carandang's The Big Picture last night on ANC, along with Defense UnderSecretary Ric Blancaflor, who gave a pretty good account of himself against the taunting, self-righteous and frankly, infantile arguments of the other three against the Human Security Act of 2007.

One of the more mystifying assertions made was that TERRORISM cannot be defined and therefore a law against it cannot be written without endangering the human rights of persons that do not fall under the definition. But it may interest Philippine Commentary readers to know that the definition in given in the Human Security Act of 2007 (Section 3): is almost exactly patterned after that of the United Nations!
SEC. 3. Terrorism. – Any person who commits an act punishable under any of the following provisions of the Revised Penal Code:
1. Article 122 (Piracy in General and Mutiny in the High Seas or in the Philippine Waters);
2. Article 134 (Rebellion or Insurrection);
3. Article 134-a (Coup d‘Etat), including acts committed by private persons;
4. Article 248 (Murder);
5. Article 267 (Kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention);
6. Article 324 (Crimes Involving Destruction,
or under
1. Presidential Decree No. 1613 (The Law on Arson);
2. Republic Act No. 6969 (Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Waste Control Act of 1990);
3. Republic Act No. 5207, (Atomic Energy Regulatory and Liability Act of 1968);
4. Republic Act No. 6235 (Anti-Hijacking Law);
5. Presidential Decree No. 532 (Anti-piracy and Anti-highway Robbery Law of 1974); and,
6. Presidential Decree No. 1866, as amended (Decree Codifying the Laws on Illegal and Unlawful Possession, Manufacture, Dealing in, Acquisition or Disposition of Firearms, Ammunitions or Explosives)
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 shall be guilty of the crime of terrorism and shall suffer the penalty of forty (40) years of imprisonment, without the benefit of parole as provided for under Act No. 4103, otherwise known as the Indeterminate Sentence Law, as amended.
Compare this to the definition of the United Nations, as explained by then Secretary General Kofi Annan, who saw the lack of a general agreement on a good definition:
Kofi Annan, Secretary General, United Nations at the Security Council Meeting on 17 March 2005] in his Commentary, "Freedom from Fear backs the definition of "Terrorism as any action intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act."
One would think that the bill's principal sponsor in the Senate, Juan Ponce Enrile, who takes credit for the Philippine law's definition, may have seen the UN Definition and found it a reasonable one, and just adopted it.

That the Philippine definition of terrorism is not so different from that of the United Nations does not necessarily impress me, but some of the more vociferous critics of the Human Security Act of 2007 may wish to consider that fact, for it clearly shows that the definition in the Human Security Act is not far from the middle of the mainstream in the world of definitions.

My own definition here at Philippine Commentary is described in this post, which pictures a terrorist network or organization as similar in nature to organized crime families like the Mafia, but have political and ideological goals, in the pursuit of which they engage in organized criminal activities ("the acts of terrorism" such as extortion, kidnapping, arson, murder etc). I think of the Human Security Act as a kind of RICO statute.

Now I think however that some people DON'T WANT there to be a definition of terrorism because their favorite political movement or organization might fall under that pejorative category with all its nasty and negative connotations among the general public.

On the show, Atty. Colmenares claims that NO LAW is needed to fight terrorism because it is the ROOT CAUSES of terrorism that must first be solved. I think here, he actually refuses to recognize the reality that we really DO have a problem with nihilistic people who employ violence and terrorize the public and are trying to establish an entirely different social, political and cultural order. Based on his argument, there is also no need for laws against Organized Crime Families like the Mafia, since "the acts of organized crimed" are also separately dealt with in laws against those acts. In this position, Colmenares reveals his partisan and ideological support for the Communist Party of the Philippines NewPeople's Army under the disguise of protecting civil and human rights. He actually thinks they are justified in violent insurgency because of "root causes". He wishes to succor the organized portion of the communist insurgency from the the provisions in RA 9372 against conspiracies to commit acts of terrorism, which is certainly the relationship between the CPP, the NPA and their front organizations (whichever they are!). He has been fighting for them to be removed from the US and EU lists of foreign terrorists organizations and does not want his pals in the hills and Holland to lose their right to bank accounts, cell phones and land mines, as well as free and open access to the Media where the greatest damage is being done. Truly, what the front organizations and personalities of the insurgency are doing is shielding the armed wing and its political and organization leadership. I hope Colmenares is just a dupe and not an active partisan.

Meanwhile, Sen. Pimentel brags about how he filed over a hundred amendments to the original bill, which has only 62 provisions, averaging therefore nearly two amendments per provision. All in the name he says of protecting and safeguarding the human rights of our people. Yet, the wholly inconsistent character and compomised principles of Nene Pimentel were sadly on display here...

Truth is, he and Joma's ditzy lil rich girl acolyte in the Senate, Jamby Madrigal saddled the law with provisions that bring disdain and absurdities down upon it, for example the fact that it is automatically suspended for three months around elections! Or that every terrorist suspect must be brought to a judge to be physically inspected for signs of torture or maltreatment by th authorities within three days of capture or arrest. (And what if they are days away from a suitable judge, USec Blancaflor innocently asked.) Or that silly, silly, 500,000 peso fine against law enforcers for every day that a person is mistakenly held.

A major subject of discussion on the show was that of "contextual environment" in which this law is being promulgated. This refers to the trustworthiness of the Arroyo administration, which Ricky Carandang used with a sarcastic edge in asking Blancaflor whether the public can trust the AntiTerrorism Council when it is clearly composed of the President's closest defense and security advisers, plus Raul Gonzalez. But he answered his own point later with the observation that GMA will be long gone, but the terrorist problem will still be there.

Let me add to this post some lil snippets from Nene Pimentel, Ric Blancaflor and Neri Colmenares. Here is Senator Nene Pimentel on repealing the law he just worked on:

Yeah Senator, Mr. Human Rights Defender--tell that to Fr. Bossi, his friends and family. Make the Abu Sayyaf happy, why don't you?

Here was USec Blancaflor's riposte to Nene's claim that the Philippines is the only country in Southeast Asia with an anti-terror law:

I wonder how Nene Pimentel can possibly misrepresent himself as a legislative terrorism expert and human rights defender when he doesn't even know that aside from the Philippines in Asia, only Mongolia, with 5 million people, does NOT have anti-terrorism law of some kind. I wonder if he even acknowledges that the Abu Sayyaf have murdered over 350 people and the NPA nearly three times as many in the last six or seven years, comprising over 200 separate terrorist attacks, bombings, arsons, murders--all in the name of jihadist or communist insurgent objectives.

A substantial point, or prediction is made by Neri Colmenares: that the Anti terror law will kill the "peace process" with various groups such as the MILF, the Abus, the Magdalo, and of course, the dear Nice People's Army...
Neri's point is based on a strange bit of reasoning: that the peace talks will fail because the government officials will now refuse to "negotiate with terrorists." I predict the opposite...that the communist movement will lose its claim to a moral basis for their violent and coercive methods that have NOT won the hearts and minds of Filipinos in over half a century of trying. To them applies the adage that guerilla warfare is the weapon of the weak, but terrorism that of the weakest. It will force "honest" communists, activists, advocates and their liberal partisans to separate means from ends, and uphold only peaceful means of political change. While no one denies the People the right to withold their consent to be governed under tyranny, it is not for any one group to decide that such tyranny or injustice exists under the present democratic system, that they are allowed to pursue violent means to overthrow it. That is still for the People to decide! Not them in Holland and the hills! Or CODAL.


Nicholas Kister said...


I've been wondering about the court system that will handle this new Law, even with regards to the warrants needed for wiretapping.

Does the current setup allow The President to order wiretaps, without court approval? I'm basing my question on what has happened in The U.S when the Bush Administration skipped the court process and set up a dragnet of wiretapping the public...

Also, which courts, and which judges will be part of this Human Security Act?

DJB Rizalist said...

The Implement Rules for the law are not yet done, so nothing is set in concrete.

But as I understand it, a special division of the Court of Appeals will handle the need for judicial participation in the enforcement of the Human Security Act. Under the Antiwiretapping law, where ALL wiretapping activities must be undertaken under Court order, but an RTC could do it.

I believe that we should see a similar evolution as in the US where there is a FISA Court that handles intelligence and surveillance like wiretapping operations.

In the US the President is empowered to do that I believe when it involves foreign citizens. But under our laws, the President cannot order wiretaps willy-nilly against Filipino citizens without court orders.

What need would you have for a LA to conduct operations that you would certainly want to keep a secret anyway?

Nicholas Kister said...

Could Arroyo pull a Bush, where Bush simply ignored FISA?

As I understood it, in The U.S., communication in and out of the country were fair game, but communication within the U.S. was to be treaded lightly..

I certainly am not a proponent of HSA, but I understand the need for it, since such incidents as bombings and kidnappings are becoming too frequent once again..

If a FISA court is to be set up, do we need reassurance that the judges that make up this court need to be approved by The Senate? Or will the judges be handpicked by The Administration without approval of The Senate?

Nicholas Kister said...

My main contention is not the law itself, which I think is definitely needed considering the terrorists that dwell in our land today, but the implementation and who gets to implement it..

with regards to the courts, I am concerned that it will become another Sandiganbayan type which can easily be swayed by Malacañang.

In the end, I need reassurance, that everyone gets a fair trial..

DJB Rizalist said...

The concerns are real and should be addressed. But think of HSA in the same way as the RICO statutes (anti organized crime) in the US.

In the beginning there were also many objections based on the fear that "ordinary criminals" would be charged under RICO even if they weren't say, Mafia.