Move to revive anti-subversion law needs further study – Palace
MANILA, Philippines – The proposal to revive the anti-subversion law needs further study as Malacanang urged parents to educate their children not to join Left-leaning groups that may overthrow the government.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Interior Secretary Eduardo Año’s suggestion to outlaw membership in the Communist Party of the Philippines should be discussed thoroughly.
“Let’s see, that suggestion requires study also,” Panelo said in a press briefing on Tuesday, adding that he has yet to get President Duterte’s take on the issue.
He made the remarks following Año’s call to reinstate the anti-subversion law amid concerns that communist rebels are recruiting students in schools to take up arms or lead Left-leaning groups.
Año claimed that 1,000 students of universities and colleges are recruited into Left-leaning groups every year and that these students end up becoming fighters of the New People’s Army.
Pressed if reviving the anti-subversion law might open it to abuse and stifle dissent, Panelo said: “That’s why I said it requires study. It requires study, so let’s study it.”
He also noted Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra’s remark that on the need to give more teeth to Republic Act 9372 or the 2007 Human Security Act, rather than revive an old law.
“They’ve been saying that we have to put more teeth to that. I think that should be addressed to the lawmakers because they are the ones legislating the laws. They should provide more teeth to that,” Panelo said.
RA 1700 or the anti-subversion law was passed in 1957 during the term of then President Carlos Garcia, outlawing membership in the CPP, and was expanded during the Marcos regime.
It was repealed in 1992 during the term of then President Fidel Ramos, making the CPP a legal group. Sedition, however, remained a crime.
He also assured that the Palace is concerned over such reports, especially that some students sometimes go missing and are reported to be dead in a skirmish with government troops.
“Maybe our suggestion to the parents is to tell their children that the ideology has long passed and is passé, and they should not entertain joining any kind of subversive organization for their own sake,” he said.
Asked if college activism is wrong, the Palace official said it becomes wrong if one joins a group found to be allied with groups whose intention is to overthrow the government.
“If the Left-leaning organization is found to be allied with organizations that are subversive of our democratic society, then it becomes wrong and illegal,” Panelo said.
He went on: “But if you join organizations to express a grievance, legitimate grievance against the government, certainly it is not. It’s part of freedom of speech.”
Panelo stressed that one should be able to discern which group is legitimately expressing a concern or grievance, and which is subversive and allied with communist rebels.
“You have to distinguish between expressing yourself out of a legitimate concern for a grievance you perceive to be committed by local officials or national officials, as against joining an organization that is allied to communist organization found to be subversive in our democratic society,” he said.
He pointed out that there are many organizations out there which are not allied with the Left but still go to the streets to protest certain issues.
Panelo added that the idealism of the youth makes them want to spring to action on issues they feel are important, even if it means joining an organization to do so.
“But given the idealism of the youth, I’ve been a youth myself. You know how the young are, they long for action. They are easily encouraged to do something noble for the country, and if they feel that they have to join an organization to do that, they will,” he said.
Asked on Sen. Ronald dela Rosa’s proposal to increase police visibility in schools to prevent NPA recruitment, Panelo said this is unlikely to solve the problem.
“I wonder if the presence of police will stop recruitment. Because recruitments are usually done in secrecy,” he said.
He went on: “The presence of the police can prevent any crime from being committed inside the campus. But recruitment? I don’t think that it will solve it… Recruitment doesn’t even have to be in schools.”
Panelo noted that Año’s statement does not mean that the government is only focused on stunting NPA recruitment in colleges and universities.
“That’s only a few officials of government talking, not the whole of government. So it doesn’t mean that the whole government is focused on recruitment,” he said.
The Palace official added: “The administration is focused on serving and protecting the people. That will always be the basis.”
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