Lawyer: Anti-Terror Act can be abused; cites Teves tag
MANILA, Philippines — Even a good law like the Anti-Terrorism Act can be abused if the executive branch that implements is “ruthless and has no conscience,” lawyer Ferdinand Topacio said in an online briefing on Tuesday.
Topacio was reacting to the government’s terrorist tagging of his client, Negros Oriental 3rd District Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr., who is accused of the murder of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo.
Topacio noted that he himself, “as a journalist,” defended the law even when it was a bill still under deliberation and that Teves voted for its passage.
“But the way it is being used now, we can’t prevent that. Whatever the law, it can be abused,” Topacio said, speaking partly in Filipino.
“You know, the restraint on weaponizing a law is the conscience of the executive because he is the one who implements the law. If the executive is unscrupulous, ruthless, and without conscience, well, whatever the law, no matter how good, can be abused. That is the sad fate, and I have seen that in my 32 years of being a lawyer. I’ve seen many laws, good laws, being abused.”
For his part, Teves echoed Topacio’s statements, saying that the government was setting a dangerous precedent by tagging him a terrorist as the law could be weaponized against the government’s critics.
“You know, this is very dangerous if it will be allowed to be weaponized. Then they can use it against any of their political enemies. You can just be accused— accused without need for approval,” Teves said in Filipino.
Topacio has been vocal on social media about his support for the Anti-Terrorism Act, tweeting several times about its need to end the communist armed insurgency.
On Tuesday, however, his client and the lawmaker’s brother, former Negros Oriental Gov. Pryde Henry Teves, were among the 13 individuals marked as terrorists by the Anti-Terrorism Council for allegedly being involved in the spate of killings in their province, including the assassination of Degamo.
Teves has repeatedly denied the accusation, saying that he and his brother would not gain anything from killing Degamo.
He has remained abroad, refusing to return to the Philippines for fear of his security.
Teves left for abroad, with a travel authority from the House of Representatives, to seek medical treatment in the United States from Feb. 28 to March 9.
His refusal to return has led the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges to recommend two 60-day suspensions against him, which House members unanimously approved.
Earlier, the same committee acquired jurisdiction of Teves’ case again, as the previous suspension ended last July 30.