Monday, November 26, 2007

Who Cares About Wahab Akbar Anyway?

Senator Juan Ponce Enrile does not see terrorism in the Batasan Blast. He says that it was not an attack on Congress "as an institution" and that a "coercive element" on government was absent. There's also that absurd matter of election season suspension of the law, but we won't bother with that detail for now... What is amazing is how people who normally detest JPE seem fervently willing to join him in this state of denial.

Yet the Batasan Bombers committed this daring and brazen mass murder right at the doorstep of the House of Representatives, inside the Batasang Pambansa Complex in Quezon City which is the equivalent of the US Capitol Building in Washington DC. How can the Batasan blast not be an attack on the Congress as an institution? Surely the venue of the assassination was not an accidental one. Even if this attack was directed at one individual, that individual was still a Member of the House of Representatives. The assassination of Wahab Akbar violates the security of the Congress and its Members, physically and psychologically. The government is forced to accept this fait accompli as a failure to protect its own elected officials and ensure the security of a major branch of the State.

On Friday, the Australian Embassy in Manila expressed the opinion that the Batasan Blast was indeed a terrorist attack and issued a fresh advisory to travelers about terrorist attacks possible "anywhere in the Philippines".

It was a "directed attack on one individual," was how DIlG Sec. Ronnie Puno put it. That individual was Wahab Akbar, the Congressman from the lone district of the province of Basilan, who was killed Nov. 13 by a bomb hidden in a parked motorcycle and remotely detonated with a cellphone, as he was about to board his own car at the south entrance to the House of Representatives building in the Batasan Complex in Quezon City.

But then, why should we care about some Basilan politician like Wahab Akbar, with his checkered past, his terrorist associations, his self-aggrandizing speeches? Like the first and only privileged speech he ever made: "I AM Basilan!" by Wahab Akbar (July 31, 2007) following a wild month in which Father Bossi was kidnapped, then mysteriously released, then fourteen Marines were ambushed by the MILF after which ten were beheaded by the ASG, yet the Govt has not served a single one of the 130 arrest warrants issued by Basilan Judge Leo Principe. And here, Wahab Akbar is dead, blown to smithereens!

Who has the balls to conceive of and carry out such a brazen attack in a high profile venue like the Batasang Pambansa? Amazingly, the Philippine National Police have charged at least four persons with multiple murder after a big break in the case just days afer the blast. After a P5 million reward for information on the Batasan blast was announced by Malacanang, the Philippine National Police got a hot tip and a big break. The police raided a house in Payatas killing three suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf in an ensuing gunbattle including a bomb making expert named Abu Jandal. Police also arrested three others whom they are charging with multiple murder in connection with the Batasan bombing based on evidence gathered at the crime scene and during the raid. A fourth suspect, said to be Hajarun Jamiri former mayor of Tuburan town has also been arrested in Malate, Manila. The investigation continues into the question of the Master Mind, with the family Akbar itself seeming to be willing to wait on authorities to get to the bottom of it.

But does the assassination of Wahab Akbar qualify as a terrorist crime? What harm to the government comes from the Abu Sayyaf successfully carrying out an explosive assassination right on the grounds of the Congress itself?

Several come to mind. It is a big propaganda victory for the ASG since the front pages and prime time newscasts have been given over to the powerful message that the Republic cannot enforce the laws even right where it makes those laws--the Congress! The government evidently cannot guarantee the personal and physical security of its lawmakers. An institution like the House of Representatives, (whatever one thinks of the current quality of its tenants) is surely under attack and obviously has a major security problem, when one of its Members is blown up with dynamite on its own premises, by an assassin who dials a cell phone number safely from a distance.

It is also a big advertising and marketing coup because with the live demonstration of its latest technology and expertise, everyone, on both giving and receiving ends, is made aware of the tender services available for sale and delivery by ASG, aka Murder, Inc.

The terrorist assassination of Wahab Akbar sends a message about what happens to those who even nominally turn away from the organized Jihad and decide to participate in the parliamentary democratic process. In this sense, the assassination directly contravenes the government's policy of attracting and integrating both Bangsamoro leaders and ordinary citizens to the task of peaceably working towards justice and reform in Mindanao.

There is of course, one absurd reason the Batasan Blast cannot be considered terrorism under Philippine Law:The very last provision of the Human Security Act (R.A. 9372 The Anti Terrorism Law) has got to tickle even the most mirthless of terroristes

Sec. 62 Special Effectivity Clause: Thereafter, the provisions of this Act shall be automatically suspended one month before and two months after the holding of any election.

Now, since the Barangay Elections were held on October 29, the provisions of RA 9372 are automatically suspended between October 1 and December 31. The Opposition Senator Nene Pimentel and several other very shortsighted legislators put in this provision out of O.A. because they claimed the Anti Terrorism Law could be used as a political weapon before, during and after elections. And so they put in the effectivity clause a blanket suspension of the Act for three months around election time.

But there is also an explicit Definition of terrorism as a crime in the Human Security Act and one wonders if the Batasan blast qualifies as a terrorist crime under that definition.

The Human Security Act of 2007 (Rep. Act 9372 the Anti Terror Law) defines the Crime of Terrorism in the Philippine jurisdiction:
R.A. 9372, Section 3. Any person who [1] 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)

[2] thereby sowing and creating a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace, [3] in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand shall be guilty of the crime of terrorism.
Thus, the crime of terrorism is a COMPOSITE CRIME that involves the commission of other crimes already punishable under the law, "in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand" using extraordinarily lethal or threatening means. Terrorist crimes, as distinguished from "ordinary" crimes, have an END or objective of forcing some unlawful demand upon the government through MEANS that are so lethal, random, insidious, or threatening, that the authorities have no moral choice but to comply. Even if the extent of such compliance is a helpless acquiescence, both the ends and the means of a terrorist act are considered to be morally unacceptable.

FEARFUL and LETHAL MEANS "...thereby sowing and creating a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace...";

A terrorist crime is expected to involve the use of remarkable means and weapons or extraordinary tactics whose sheer deadliness, random destructiveness, or diabolical conception seems designed to sow fear and panic in people. However, it has only gradually been accepted by critics of the law that suspected terrorists need not actually succeed in creating a condition of widespread fear and panic for this element to exist and be applicable to a given instance. In fact, a credible threat or ability to foment such a condition fear and panic in the populace may arguably have greater coercive effect on the government. In addition, as a matter of public policy, we would NOT want the public to ever react with unnecessary fear or panic under any threat condition. Thus this element of the crime of terrorism distinguishes the MEANS employed in a terrorist crime from ordinary instances of that crime.

UNLAWFUL and COERCIVE INTENT " order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand..."

Although JPE is right that no explicit demand letter or other "coercive element" has been associated with the Batasan blast, there now exists the possibility of using death threats by means of remote conrolled bombs as a very potent threat that other House Members or even Senators their staff members, and other high government officials cannot afford to ignore.


Cocoy said...

"The terrorist assassination of Wahab Akbar sends a message about what happens to those who even nominally turn away from the organized Jihad and decide to participate in the parliamentary democratic process. In this sense, the assassination directly contravenes the government's policy of attracting and integrating both Bangsamoro leaders and ordinary citizens to the task of peaceably working towards justice and reform in Mindanao."

Exactly. Sad to think that people want to fight terrorism but go against that goal by letting things like this slide, as if it was nothing.

lcnatabio said...

Boom! An explosion! It's got to be a terrorist.

Lesson to would be assassins:
use "sumpak" or bolo.

..that way, you avoid the terrorist label.

DJB Rizalist said...

Well Icnatabio,
The Holy Ghost did not do it this time around...

Amadeo said...

Terrorism and the war against it (GWOT) are so intertwined and identified with the current US administration that those opposed to it will try to demonize it as much as they can, at times to the extent of denying the very existence of terrorism. If only to strike at the US policy and discount whatever efforts are being done to curb it worldwide. And all negative repercussions, even if inflicted on one’s own country, be damned.

Cocoy said...

amadeo, normally, i'd tend to agree with your line of thinking that when you look at the situation at face value that's what jihadis do. they're angry--- especially when they see it as an aggression against their fellow muslims.

I recently read an article, "Where Boys Grow Up to Be Jihadis," which was published by the NY Times a few days ago. Andrea Elliot in that article raised several questions as to why there are extremists and challenges our age old assumption that these extremists are born out of poverty, that they do this out of anger and hatred.

My guess is our understanding of what makes a terrorist is incomplete, thus far anyway. The experts are fast at work in understanding them.

From my layman's understanding anger and poverty are ingredients. To make a terrorist while anger is required, poverty is not. What's interesting is that the experts are saying this (quote from Ms. Elliot's article):

Terrorists don’t simply die for a cause, Scott Atran, an anthropologist who studies terrorism, told me. “They die for each other.”

If that is the case then how do you shatter a clique?

lcnatabio said...

there is nothing wrong with fighting terrorism. what is wrong is when those who fight it takes on the face of a terrorist themselves.

if the so-called civilized world uses this approach, there is no winning this war.

DJB Rizalist said...

i'm glad you think that there "nothing wrong" with self-defense.

But where do you draw the line beyond which self defense "takes on the face of the terrorist"?

Take torture for instance. Suppose you know that terrorist "A" is about to blow up a plane with your mother, wife and kids on board. You have just arrested Terrorist "B" who has information that could save their lives, along with 400 other passengers of the Jumbo Jet.

Where do YOU draw the line Icnatabio?