Just after eight pm Tuesday night, ABSCBN News reported an explosion near the South Entrance of the House of Representatives Building in Quezon City.
The blast, said to have been planted in a parked motorcycle and remotely detonated, killed Basilan Rep. Wahab Akbar and the chaffeur of Party List Rep. Luz Ilagan, seriously injured several others, and brought the specter of violence right to the front door of the Congress. Said to be one of the original members of the Abu Sayyaf Group in Mindanao, Wahab Akbar and his two wives are the political kingpins of Basilan.
House Speaker Jose de Venecia returned to the Batasan Complex in Quezon City in the aftermath of the explosion, trying to look like the man in charge, and condemning it as an act of terrorism. That may or may not turn out to be warranted by the facts of this incident as they are uncovered, but unfortunately, the Human Security Act RA 9372 (Anti Terrorism Law) contains the following provision: Section 62 Thereafter, the provisions of this Act shall be automatically suspended one month before and two months after the holding of any election.
We are presently in the two month period after the Oct. 29 barangay and SK elections during which the provisions of the law are automatically suspended, supposedly to prevent the authorities from using to law against political opponents, just before, during and after elections!
The best Speaker Joe will be able to do is to prosecute whoever did this under the Revised Penal Code, as an ordinary crime. It's best to really not use RA 9372 anyway, even in terrorist cases, since it is a booby trapped law, a terrorists bill of rights that is beyond the ability of law enforcers to use effectively without exposing themselves to fines and jail time under its "human rights provisions" which far outnumber the provisions sanctioning terrorists and cannot be easily complied with.
Now of course, we do not yet really know yet exactly what happened, how, and whodunit. By chance, Ms. Sandra Cam, who became famous as a Senate witness on the inner workings of the Jueteng Industry in the Philippines, was talking by cell phone to Rep. Akbar as he was descending the steps down to his waiting automobile when the blast occurred.
The President has called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice and convened the National Security Council overnight to assess the serious turn in events. Fears that martial law is about to be declared are rife in the texting realms. Interior Secretary Ronnie Puno has indicated that this may be a politically motivated assassination -- not a far-fetched idea considering the Byzantine politics of Basilan, which has been ruled by Akbar and his two politically powerful wives.
The leading theory seems to be that Wahab Akbar was targeted by a remote controlled bomb right inside the Batasan Complex.
What with an impeachment complaint, a speakership fight, and several Bribery scandals and exposes on High Boil, this is probably the last thing the Congress needs right now.
But I hope it will bring into focus certain absurdities attending the present anti terrorism legislation. The use of remote controlled car bombs as a tactic by all sorts of mean people needs to be nipped in the bud with a good firm prosecution under the new law, but things like automatic suspension for three months only brings mockery to the law. Many aspects of the Human Security Act need to be reviewed and amended if it is ever to be an effective tool against terrorist attacks.