Anti-Terrorism Act to be used for State Terrorism

BY JOSE MARIA SISON*
Posted by Bulatlat
Democratic Space
Vol. VII, No. 22, July 8-14, 2007

The Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA, Republic Act No. 9372 or the Human Security Act of 2007) is part of the global wave of fascist legislation and state terrorism generated by the so-called global war on terror under the Bush regime of the U.S. government. Aside from being a tool of U.S. imperialism, the ATA is a repressive tool of the Arroyo regime for intimidating and suppressing the people’s democratic movement and the broad range of opposition forces.

Even before the enactment of the ATA, the Arroyo regime and its military and police minions have been committing gross and systematic violations of human rights in the name of combating terrorism.  The use of the military, police, paramilitary forces and death squads and fanatical cults for the purpose of coercion and suppression coincides with the desperate drive of the Arroyo regime for political survival. We can therefore expect the regime to use such oppressive law as the ATA as a virtual license for and weapon of state terrorism and unbridled human rights violations.
The ATA adopts a highly emotive political term like terrorism as a legal term. This is given a vague and overbroad definition and does not contain a clear legal standard. Thus it allows and emboldens the political authorities to take arbitrary and ill-motivated actions against their opponents and the people in violation of their fundamental rights and freedoms.  
In its attempt to define terrorism as a legal term, the ATA unwittingly admits that it is superfluous and unnecessary by enumerating and seeking to subsume as elements of terrorism crimes that are already well-defined in the penal laws of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP). These crimes include piracy, mutiny, rebellion, insurrection, coup d’etat, murder, kidnapping, serious illegal detention, and those involving destruction plus other crimes like arson and even illegal possession of firearms or explosives.

The ATA fails to show how such crimes transmutate into or rise to the level of the supposed super-crime that is hysterically called terrorism, except by suggesting that this involves ideological, political, religious and similar motivations and concerted activities by organizations and individuals (thereby attacking among others the freedom of thought and belief and freedom of assembly) and by pointing to the inevitable results of such crimes, like “sowing and creating a condition of fear and panic among the populace” and “coercing the government to give in to an unlawful demand” as supposed additional elements.

The ATA fails to define clearly and precisely what constitutes these highly political and subjective additional elements and by what scale and degree these aforesaid crimes in the criminal laws of the GRP need to reach in order to qualify as crimes of terrorism.  However, the factotums of the Arroyo regime in the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) – the very same cabal that is behind previous failed repressive measures (e.g., calibrated preemptive response, Proclamation No. 1017, Executive Order No. 464, national ID system) and directors of the bloody national security program (resulting in more then 860 extrajudicial killings, 200 abductions and more than one million displaced people, among others) – presume that they can usurp legislative power and unlawfully continue the process of legislation in trying to fill in what is absent in the ATA under the guise of formulating implementing rules and regulations (IRR). People are waiting to see how the ATC will use the IRR and undertake further actions to outdo the already draconian ATA.

The ATA violates all the principles and standards of human rights established in the advance of jurisprudence and human civilization and in the particular struggle against the Marcos fascist dictatorship.  It effectively sets aside due process and the presumption of innocence by hounding and pouncing on individuals on the basis of  mere suspicion and raw intelligence. It also attacks the freedom of thought and belief, expression, association, assembly, right to privacy and other fundamental rights and freedoms. It resurrects the witchhunts and inquisitions of the distant past. It creates a board of inquisition in the form of the ATC.  It even seeks to extend its fascist long arm outside the jurisdiction of the country and connive with its U.S. imperialist master and agents in inhuman renditions. It brings about conditions far worse than those under the martial law declaration of the Marcos fascist dictatorship.

The Arroyo regime calculates that the law can be made acceptable by first trumpeting it as a necessary weapon against such small bandit groups like the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah.  But even right now, the regime is already threatening to use the ATA against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army (NPA) and the chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). The position of the Arroyo regime violates the political offense doctrine well-established in the Supreme Court decision in the Hernandez case and the national and international laws that recognize and respect the right of the people to rebel against tyranny or oppression and the political integrity of national liberation movements founded on the just demands of the people.

At any rate, the Arroyo regime cynically estimates that the bandit groups Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah as well as the revolutionary forces of the CPP, the NPA and the NDFP chief political consultant are easy targets of proscription because their representatives cannot present themselves freely before the courts of the GRP. Even if the proscribed entities dare to present themselves before such courts, they would have no access to any of the secret statements and intelligence dossiers provided ex parte by the ATC to the designated courts.  

The ATA is practically a bill of attainder insofar as it seeks through the ATC to proscribe and criminalize and subject to punitive sanctions entire parties, organizations like the CPP and NPA and their leaders and members effectively without any real due process beyond the inadequate and deceptive semblance of it in the ATA.  The ATA uses the long-discredited notion of guilt by association in order to criminalize and subject an expanding number of people to punitive sanctions without truly any due process and without the presumption of innocence before personal guilt is actually proven in court.

The ATA is far more oppressive than the Anti-Subversion Law of 1957. This earlier oppressive law at least required the two-witness rule and a full judicial process before any one could be adjudged a “subversive” and subjected to punishment. But under the ATA, a supra-executive organ like the ATC relying on its political bias and on dubious and uncontested intelligence reports can practically adjudge any party, organization or natural person a “terrorist” and subject this to punitive sanctions.

The ATA can be used to pressure, persecute or punish any party, organization or individual beyond those already proscribed and persecuted.  The Arroyo regime can easily use the ATC to expand the targets of attack under the catch-all provisions of the ATA. The Council can arbitrarily designate suspected officers, sympathizers and members of any organized entity or any individual for that matter as accomplices or accessories in the crime of terrorism or in a supposed conspiracy to commit terrorism.

 The Arroyo regime can use the ATA in an unlimited way to serve its selfish economic and political interests and intimidate and suppress the broad range of opposition, including the legal progressive and conservative forces.  We have already seen how the regime has generated waves of human rights violations against the legal patriotic and progressive organizations and progressive party-list groups, the social, peace and human rights activists among the religious, truthful journalists and other forces in the broad range of opposition to the regime.

The ATC can unleash against the political opponents of the Arroyo regime a series of oppressive actions, such as wiretapping and other forms of surveillance against which the victims have no prompt remedy; indefinite proscription and freezing of financial assets and accounts; fabricated charges of terrorism to cause the permanent imprisonment on the ground of non-bailability or house arrest which result in the curtailment of the freedom of expression, movement, communications and other rights; the three-day detention limit (easily extendible upon a mere claim by security officials of an “imminent terrorist attack”) either to force a confession and consequently imprison victims indefinitely on the ground of non-bailability or to eliminate witnesses and evidence of forced disappearances and thus to ensure impunity for the minions of the regime in committing torture, murder and other atrocities against their victims.

The entire nation and the people of the world have witnessed how the Arroyo regime has used the Cabinet Oversight Committee on Internal Security and the Anti-Terrorism Task Force (predecessors of the Anti-Terrorism Council  and its Secretariat) to direct the murder, kidnapping and torture of hundreds of legal activists (including workers, peasants, women, youth, teachers, journalists, religious, human rights activists, lawyers, NDFP consultants and other people) and the large military campaigns to intimidate, harm and displace more than a million people from their homes and land under Oplan Bantay Laya I and II.

Given the license and weapon like the ATA, the Arroyo regime and its military and police minions are set to escalate human rights violations. Under such circumstances, we can expect the broad masses of the people and the revolutionary forces to intensify all forms of resistance. The Arroyo regime is bent on killing the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations with the use of the ATA. It can only fuel the flames of the armed revolution by escalating human rights violations in the futile effort to use brute military force to subjugate and pacify the people and the revolutionary forces. Posted by Bulatlat

*Prof. Jose Maria Sison is chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and chairman of the International Coordinating Committee, International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS).

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