Anti-Terror Bill ‘uncannily recalls’ Marcos martial law’s ‘dark days’ – Sereno
MANILA, Philippines — The proposed Anti-Terror Bill that aims to strengthen the Human Security Act of 2007 has shown similarities to ex-President Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law declaration, former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno claimed.
Sereno said in a statement on Wednesday that the public must remember that the martial law regime had not caused long-term benefits, but only brought problems like corruption and insurgencies — things that the Supreme Court has acknowledged in several decisions.
Just recently, the House of Representatives passed House Bill No. 6875 – an adopted version of Senate Bill No. 1083 – on the third and final reading. This came after President Rodrigo Duterte certified the proposed law as urgent, despite the ongoing battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The proximity of the number of the Senate bill to Proclamation No. 1081 signed in 1972 by then President Marcos uncannily recalls for me the dark days of Marcos’ Martial Law. Our people must keep in mind that not a single claim of the long-term benefits of that martial law regime has been validated by the Supreme Court,” Sereno noted.
“To the contrary, the wide-scale plunder, and suffering of the people and the economy are sufficiently recorded in several of its decisions. Local insurgencies were not suppressed, and our neighbors outstripped us in both human development and hard infrastructures,” she added.
Sereno also claimed that they have listened, when she was still chief justice, to the difficulties encountered by law enforcement agencies in implementing the Human Security Act of 2007, such as legal obstacles.
However, she noted that such issues can be fixed with the judiciary simply entering into an agreement with the executive branch, instead of amending the law.
According to Sereno, she assured the executive that the courts would not impede the government’s responsibility to go after terrorists.
But the agreement never materialized because the Supreme Court failed to review the constitutionality of the existing law’s substantive provisions that would have been necessary to balance the “implementation difficulties” and the defense of “human dignity and rights”.
Human rights and opposition groups and advocates have voiced their concern about how the Anti-Terror Bill may be used to silence legitimate dissent, as law enforcers can do electronic surveillance and warrantless arrest on individuals viewed as terrorists, and those inciting terrorism.
Others like Vice President Leni Robredo, on the other hand, also questioned the timing of the push for the Anti-Terror Bill since the country is in the middle of a fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite criticisms, including that from prominent international personalities like Thai diplomat Kasit Piromya, administration officials assured that there are safeguards against abuse, with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana even saying that the provisions ensure the protection of human rights.
But amid these justifications for the bill, Sereno reminded the government that it exists primarily to ensure that people’s rights are respected — even if these people express views different from the government’s.
“This is the reason why the government exists in the first place, to act as agents with delegated power from the sovereign Filipino people, to enable the people to build a ‘just and humane society’. When the government leads the people to injustice and to inhumanity, then the whole basis for that authority morally erodes,” the former top magistrate said.
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