Poor intel work of gov’t forces underscored in terror law arguments at SC
MANILA, Philippines — Petitioners on Tuesday raised before the Supreme Court the issue of poor intelligence work on the part of authorities that will implement what they insisted is a vague Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (ATA).
Former Integrated Bar of the Philippines President Jose Anselmo Cadiz said the country already has the Human Security Act (HSA) to fight terrorism and that it is far better than the ATA because it enumerates acts that can be considered terrorism.
Under the HSA, there is no provision punishing “proposal to commit terrorism” as a separate offense as well as the acts of planning, training, preparing, and facilitating the commission of terrorism.
In the ATA, one of the provisions questioned by petitioners is Section 4 which provides for the definition of terrorism.
Petitioners argued that while the said provision states that terrorism “shall not include advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action and other similar exercises of civil and political rights,” this qualifier is rendered pointless by the succeeding phrase “which are not intended to cause death or serious physical harm to a person, to endanger a person’s life or to create a serious risk to public safety.”
“The law grants unbridled discretion for them to implement it against terrorists or a dissent,” former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said.
“You are saying that the HSA is a better law than the ATA because it states the predicate crime that constitutes terrorism. But would this not restrict the prosecution and deterrence of terrorism?” Associate Justice Rodil Zalameda asked.
“I don’t believe so, Your Honor. In my very humble view, the HSA is enough to deter terrorism. What is really lacking is good police work and good intelligence work. I think there are solely lacking in our jurisdiction,” Cadiz said.
Colmenares shared the same opinion saying that even if the country enacts 10 laws against terrorism, “if your intelligence work says that Alex Padilla and Roan Libarios are [members] of the CPP-NPA, then nothing will come out of those kahit sampung anti-terror law pa ang ipasa natin [even if we enact 10 anti-terror laws].”
Associate Justice Edgardo Delos Santos pointed out that the bombings in Mindanao have also left a chilling effect on the survivor and witnesses of the senseless bombings.
But Colmenares said, raising as an argument the heinousness of the crime even if the law enacted against it is unconstitutional “makes this oral argument useless.”
He said, what is dangerous about the new law is that the authorities have removed the line that distinguishes a terrorist and dissents.
Associate Justice Rodil Zalameda said the definition of terrorism under the ATA was patterned with the Anti-Terror Laws of Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Sri Lanka.
Cadiz agreed but added, “if you look at the constitutions of these countries, they don’t have their bill of rights.”
Bill of rights is the enumeration of the fundamental rights of every citizen of a country.
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