Friday, October 13, 2006

PDI's Fallacious Arguments Against Anti-Terror Legislation

In today's editorial, Safeguards, the country's leading Leftie newspaper makes one last ditch effort to argue against the adoption of a Philippines Anti-Terrorism law. The long-stalled bill, appears to have hurdled Senate opposition after three terrorist bombings in a 24 hour period caused even the naysayers like Sen. Nene Pimentel (who is from Mindanao), and Sen. Jamby Madrigal (who is from Old Money in New Manila and is turning out to be a real flake!) to gain some perspective and rethink their position.

It's the Bomb Count, Stupid!

Of course, PDI was quick to accuse the government of first, overstating the body count from the bomb blasts of the last few days, and then of intentionally trying to panic the Congress into passing the legislation first promised to our Allies in 2001 by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, a fact that makes me wonder how PDI can call passage of the bill "hasty" --
HASTE makes for hysteria, which leads to drafting of bad laws and an even worse security strategy. How haste can hamper sober conclusions is demonstrated by the eventual disclosure that the number of fatalities in the recent bombings in Makilala, North Cotabato, was overstated by 100 percent because, as Mayor Onofre Respicio later clarified, the same victims had been counted twice. This may seem a trivial matter, but in this country terrorism has always been measured by the body count. Get that wrong, and the government will either under- or overreact.

The bombs that have gone off in parts of Mindanao are a serious cause for concern. That they are being used to stampede the Senate into approving an antiterrorism bill should be a cause for equal anxiety.
Oh, so now it's the government and the military that are trying to STAMPEDE the Senate into passing the bill! Insult our and the Senate's intelligence, why don't you? It does not occur to the editorialist that everyone sees the escalation of terrorist attacks, both from jihadist movements like the Abu Sayyaf and the Communist Party of the Philippines. It's the bomb count, stupid! I think it is irresponsible to suggest that those poor folks in Cotabato City, after a horrific explosion, could possibly be blamed for getting the body count wrong. Of course the PDI put it cutely and for effect that the actual count was "eventually disclosed." Heck this crap only happened TWO days ago. So what if it took 24 hours to get the count right?

It's a lil difficult when all you have to work with are BODY PARTS.

Non Sequitur But PDI's main argument is that antiterrorism legislation is NOT NEEDED. We're doing just fine fighting terrorism without the new law, according to them--
The greatest intelligence achievement of this country -- the discovery and investigation of the original plan to hijack commercial aircraft and turn them into kamikaze bombs -- was accomplished without benefit of an antiterrorism law. Officials also do not need an antiterrorism law to move the oil depots out of Pandacan, Manila, which are a health and security risk...We must consider, too, that no antiterrorism law can help in capturing Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani when even a $5-million reward offered by the United States cannot achieve the same objective.
Hahaha. The "greatest intelligence achievement of this country" came as a result of sheer luck when Ramzi Youssef of World Trade Center-I infamy, the nephew of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, accidently BURNED his shawarma sandwich and nosy neighbors at the Josefa apartment which he rented next to where Pope John Paul II would be sleeping, called the police. His laptop, which survived the fire, contained several encrypted files, which were later discovered to have been encrypted weakly and decoded. Out popped Oplan Bojinka of which the editorial speaks. As for moving the Pandacan Oil Depot, yes, PDI, we don't need the antiterrorism law to do that. But this entire line of argument by example is obviously non-sequitur. There is no way for PDI to know and declare that an antiterrorism bill would not be helpful in each of these situations.

Defeatist and Capitulationist

Perhaps the editorialist senses the weakness of this argument as jihadist attacks begin to mount in the Philippines (even though Al Qaeda already attacked us on Rizal Day, 2000, an attack which at that time, PDI was happy to allow reporters and columnists to suggest was done by Erap Estrada and Ping Lacson.) The editorial next switches to a different fallacious argument than that the law is NOT NEEDED. That argument is that the law will be USELESS anyway against the terrorists!
we must realize that if terrorist operations are in place, Congress is in no position to affect the outcome of those operations -- or countermeasures by the authorities. If a terrorist plan is in place, even force-marching the Senate to approve a bill, and cracking the whip on a bicameral committee to resolve the differences between two versions of the bill cannot stop it.
Well I guess we might as well just surrender to Jose Maria Sison and the CPP-NPA, or is it Khadaffy Janjalani and the Abu Sayyaf that PDI sees as marching inexorably to victory no matter what we do?

There is actually a forlorn air to this editorial as it concludes with apt resignation with the same suggestion I just made in a previous post...that like all laws we must let democratic processes of judicial and legislative review fine-tune our appreciation of what is NECESSARY and SUFFICIENT to securing our people and our nation againts the Nihilists.

I am dissatisfied with the antiterrorism law as it is currently written on two accounts:

(1) I think that a special court, like the FISA Court in the U.S. is an important and necessary innovation for handling the specialized nature of judicial review and supervision of antiterrorism related activities, policies and strategies, requiring new protocols and defensive measures that need to be constantly reviewed and refined.

(2) There is no specific list of Terrorist Organizations that is annually updated, reviewed and approved by the Congress or Justice Dept., as the US and EU laws do. I think this IS the kind of vagueness that can easily lead to abuses. Whereas, if we identify every year the known targets, the government cannot just suddenly decide that some legitimate Opposition formation is a terrorist organization.


john marzan said...

i guess dito ko dapat ipi-nost yung comment ko about the anti-terror bill.

john marzan said...

clickable version. ;)

manuelbuencamino said...


Do you believe the anti-terror law, in its present version, is safe in anybody's hands?

If not, then shouldn't you oppose the current version until a safer version is submitted ?

Or is a bad law is better than no law at all and let's just fix it later?

Deany Bocobo said...

Every law has the potential to be abused. Look at the laws we don't even bother to question any more, like laws against rape or murder. At one time, it was considered a right by some to commit the acts that we now label with those crimes. While it is true that the individual crimes which are committed by terrorists are already recognized as such, the passage of this type of legislation is more in the nature of RECOGNIZING a new form of crime against society and humanity which only employs those other crimes as means to a more dastardly end.

Perhaps that is why there has been such a great difficulty DEFINING terrorism, because it is precisely an act of the People to name a new combination of acts that adds up to something more than the sum of the individual crimes.

I guess I would describe this new transnational crime of terrorism we are recognizing as a kind of SUBVERSION of the civilization that almost all people, including almost all Muslims.

In that sense, the legislation is actually quite innovative. It is GLOBALIZED law in the sense that it is more than response to OUR problems with a band like Abu Sayyaf.

It is a recognition of the fact that terrorism has become a global movement, with subsidiaries and allies, some witting, some unwitting.

But I grant you that there are a lot of unknowns. As a lifelong civil libertarian, I am always chary of "unsafe" laws.

FISA-Court anyone?

It can always be amended. But for now it is that matter of recognizing a new transgression on decency, a new crime if you will, one that threatens us all.

The biggest imperfection of the Law is actually something I am afraid we cannot do anything about: it is actually unknown how MUCH of our civil liberties we shall have to give up in order to survive the terrorist threat.

Thus there is need for that tiresome citizens duty: vigilance.

manuelbuencamino said...


I know you are a civil libertarian. So how do you address this argument made by Sassy lawyer a long time ago.

Sassy pointed out that our present anti-terrorism bill contains a bill of attainder.

“What is a bill of attainder?” she asked. ” It is a law that punishes a person for a status or association rather than for the commission of any criminal act.”
Where do we find this bill of attainder in the anti-terrorism bill?
Sassy said, “Section 8 of the anti-terrorism bill is what characterizes it as a bill of attainder. It is about proscription of organizations.”
And she asks, “What is proscription and what is so objectionable about it?” Her answer is why the anti-terrorism bill should terrify us all.
She said, “Proscription means being “branded” or “labeled”. Proscripted organizations will be published and, after publication, any person who joins a proscribed organization violates the anti-terrorism law and can be imprisoned from 6 to 12 years.”
She continues, “You may ask, so what? If the organization is engaged in terrorism anyway, then anyone who knowingly joins would, in fact, be engaging in terrorism as well.”
“But see,” she elaborates, “ we have to ask what the factual basis for proscription is. An organization may be proscribed simply because some international organization said so. In short, the burden on the government of proving that an organization is, in fact, engaged in “acts of terrorism” is removed. All that the government has to do is to agree with the labeling of the UN or other international organization and that’s that.”

Sa madaling salita, the anti-terror bill says, “Guilty until proven innocent!” Now, is that the sword you want to put in the hands of Gloria Arroyo and her security forces?

Shouldn't we civil libertarians try to find a more creative solution to the terror problem? I mean here we are arguing over a law written and sponsored by the very same individuals who abused similar powers they under the Marcos dictatorship. Must we live with the evil of choosing between two lessers?

Deany Bocobo said...

Remember that civil libertarians recognize a hierarchy of liberties to which we are entitled, namely, the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. I think the order or sequence of this enumeration is most significant. Where there is a greater threat to life than to liberty, we must deal with that threat even at the expense of liberty or some portion of it.

I think that is what it means to be AT WAR.

What I wonder would Sassy the Lawyer modify about her statements in a state of war?

Indeed, I look upon anti terror legislation as a DECLARATION of WAR and the organization of national and human defense.

The problem is, it can't be handled by the declaration of war provisions of the Constitution. Because there is no one definite to actually declare war upon!

john marzan said...

(2) There is no specific list of Terrorist Organizations that is annually updated, reviewed and approved by the Congress or Justice Dept., as the US and EU laws do. I think this IS the kind of vagueness that can easily lead to abuses. Whereas, if we identify every year the known targets, the government cannot just suddenly decide that some legitimate Opposition formation is a terrorist organization.

and i think the habit by this administration of branding the arroyo critics or opposition members as a "destabilizer", a "communist", or an "enemy of the state" is just as bad.

Unknown said...

John says, "and i think the habit by this administration of branding the arroyo critics or opposition members as a "destabilizer", a "communist", or an "enemy of the state" is just as bad."

I concur.

Imagine, Dean, they could just as easily tag and charge you, mlq3, Ellen (especially Ellen) and every tom, dick and harry of a blogger who writes, "Gloria is a liar, a thief and cheat..." with a terrorism.

No, on balance, while I do believe we need a anti-terrorism law, the two elements you cited are, to me, the essential reason why I don't like Enrile's proposed bill.

There is a need for a more specific law to combat terrorism (just like we have here)I do accept that but accpeting Enrile's proposed bill as it is today -would be like giving Gloria total liberty to ignore every letter in the Bill of Rights.

Deany Bocobo said...

I think that the element of "tagging" various folks as "terrorist" or "destabilizer" only works as form of war propaganda. And it mainly works on people who are not readily identifiable. It is much like the tag of communist, which, though there is no more law against being a member of the CPP, you can greatly suffer just by being tagged.

Civilizations have resolved this dilemma that ANY law is actually a reduction of human freedom in the sense that humans can no longer do as they please in that area. But such laws also have the effect of increasing human security and prosperity which does lead to happiness too.


These are the rights we must protect. In that order.
But if you mean that there is the danger of arbitrary application of the law, there is nothing unique about that with the anti-terrorism bill.

Granted, the tag "terrorist" has attained the same revulsion as "communist" for most people, if not more.

But we want it to have that effect so when it is applied to real terrorists it can make a real difference both in what the Law is allowed to do and what the terrorists are not allowed to do.

Just as I can be accused of murder or rape or rebellion ARBITRARILY, so can I be called a terrorists arbitrarily.

Thus do we also abolish laws against murder and rape?

Deany Bocobo said...


The REBELLION raps filed against a broad swathe of the Opposition is exactly what you feared.

diliman72grad said...

Isn't the current version of the Senate Bill (and the House Bill) available for tomas and richard and maria-teresa-agoncillo-de-aragon to read? What is the threat to habeas corpus, if any? Anna is miles-away in Europe so she probably don't know, but does DJB and m-buencamino have access to the fine details to review the contents without anti-Enrile or pro-Bush propaganda ?

Also to remember... the Philippines supposedly follows the principle that the Constitution is the highest law of the land. IF (and I suspect it will, in some cases) the Philippine anti-terror bill violates provisions in the Constitution, then someone should get the Phil Supreme Court to render judgment. [Of course, the penalty for bad laws is that the laws bite a few innocent while time gets chewed up before a Supreme Court decision is rendered.]

diliman72grad said...

Technically (to my understanding), a Filipino can not lose a right that is guaranteed to him by the Constitution. Things go haywire when the Executive branch abuses its powers (knowingly or unknowingly). Worse is when the Legislative Branch passes laws that have provisions in violation of the Constitution. I suppose much worse is when the Legislative and Executive AND the CBCP all agree on a provision when it fact said provision is contra to a Constitutionally-guaranteed right, but this (when the majority tramples the right of a minority) does not happen in the Philippines.

Deany Bocobo said...

Welcome to Philippine Commentary, dilimangrad72!

Thank you for your comments. We have quite a lively discussion going on here most of the time of these topics and appreciate your inputs.

Every law has the potential to be abused. But as we have pointed out here recently, there is hierarchy of human rights and liberties, including the right to life and to personal security, along with the freedoms of speech and assembly. Laws are made to regulate the relations of men in respect of those rights.

We shall have to wait and see. We have to make the law work to our own advantage while keeping an eye on the law enforcers.