Lawmakers oppose return of antisubversion law
Bringing back the antisubversion law, a legal tool that the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos had used to silence his critics, would only infringe on individual rights guaranteed by the 1987 Constitution, senators said on Tuesday.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chair of the Senate national defense and security committee, quickly shot down Interior Secretary Eduardo Año’s proposal on Monday to reinstate Republic Act No. 1700, which criminalized mere membership in the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and other similar groups.
The law, which was repealed in 1992, had been blamed for the massive human rights violations during the Marcos dictatorship.
“I’m not inclined to support it [because] it encroaches on the fundamental right to peaceful assembly, to protest. I don’t think I will support that,” Lacson told reporters.
Hindrance to peace efforts
Even junior Sen. Christopner “Bong” Go, a former special assistant to President Rodrigo Duterte, rejected Año’s idea, saying it would only hinder the government’s efforts to reach a peace agreement with the communist rebels.
“I’m in favor of [resuming] peace talks [with the CPP] … Right now, I’m not in favor of reviving the antisubversion law,” Go said.
“If we return the antisubversion law, what will happen to our friends from the party list groups?” he added, referring to leftist sectoral parties that the military accuses of being legal fronts of the CPP.
“They might be charged and detained. Whether we like it or not, they will really be affected,” Go said.
Speaking at a Senate hearing presided over by Lacson on Tuesday, Año said reviving the antisubversion law would help state forces defeat the communist insurgency and stop militant organizations from recruiting students.
“It would be better if both the recruiters and organization are held accountable. But there is no law that outlaws the [CPP],” Año told Lacson.
He urged the senators to pass “any similar [law] that would implement the purpose of the antisubversion law.”
But Lacson said strengthening RA 9372, or the Human Security Act of 2007, would be enough to deal with the communist insurgency and other security threats.
In fact, he said Año’s suggestion was not among the proposed amendments to the antiterrorism law, which was primarily aimed at containing violent Islamic extremism.
“If you only join organizations like Kabataan party list or Anakbayan, I don’t see any problem with that. Except of course [if] they are also violating the law for recruiting minors,” said Lacson, a former chief of the Philippine National Police.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Risa Hontiveros vowed to block any attempt to bring back the antisubversion law.
Sen. Grace Poe also joined her colleagues in opposing Año’s proposal, saying: “We need to protect our democracy and we cannot use our laws to curtail the free speech.”
In the House of Representatives, militant lawmakers denounced Año’s proposal, calling it a “throwback to the Marcosian dictatorship.”
House Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Isagani Zarate, a member of the activist party list group Bayan Muna, said Año’s “militarist proposal” would “mean more violations of human rights, as this will definitely curtail our freedom of association, our freedom of expression and our freedom of assembly.”
Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat said reviving the antisubversion law would be like putting the whole country under martial law.
“They have unreasonably prolonged the imposition of martial law in Mindanao, and now they want it imposed all over the country,” Cullamat said.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra also opposed Año’s proposal, saying mere membership in the CPP is not a crime “unless overt criminal acts are committed.”—With reports from Melvin Gascon and Dona Z. Pazzibugan