No Need for Anti-Terror Bill

If only the government of the Philippines would enact laws on conventions that the country is treaty-bound to comply with, there would be no need to legislate an anti-terrorism bill (ATB). Passing the ATB will only replicate existing international humanitarian laws and laws on crimes against humanity, a UP law professor says.

BY DABET CASTAÑEDA
Bulatlat.com

Several treaties and conventions already signed by the Philippines in past years are more than enough to cover so-called terrorist acts thus making the proposed anti-terrorism bill (ATB) now in Congress redundant.

A University of the Philippines law professor who testified at the recent House Committee on Justice hearing on the ATB said Congress only needs to enact enabling laws to implement the treaties that government is duty-bound to implement without even passing the proposed ATB.

Harry Roque, professor of Public International Law at the UP College of Law, in his attestation to the committee hearing on Aug. 3 proposed to enact the country’s treaty obligations specifically relating to the Geneva Conventions of 1951, additional protocols as well as the rules on the means and methods of warfare, and possibly a legislation to implement crimes against humanity as they exist in customary law.

Crimes against humanity, as defined by the United Nations International Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTFY) and the UN tribunal for Rwanda, are widespread or systematic attacks against civilian population.

No enabling laws

Roque, who is also a member of the prosecution team in connection with the impeachment complaint against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the House, cited specific treaty obligations that the country has signed for which no enabling laws have been enacted. These include the various conventions on torture, genocide, against the taking of hostages, the physical protection of nuclear materials, on the suppression of unlawful acts against the safety of fixed platforms located at the continental shelf, on the marking of planting explosives with the purpose of detection, on the suppression of terrorist bombings and on the suppression of financing terrorism.

“We are parties to these conventions and we are duty-bound to enact local enabling legislations to such,” he said.

Roque told the committee, chaired by Rep. Simeon Datumanong (second district, Maguindanao), also said these existing laws and norms in the international community are adequate enough in dealing with what is known today as “modern-day terrorism.”

A bill specifically dealing with terrorism is not needed for the simple reason that even the international community has not precisely defined “terrorism,” he said.

Roque’s attestation prompted some members of the justice committee to suggest that they wait for the UN to provide an accurate definition of terrorism by September.

Rep. Rozzano Rufino Biazon (lone district, Muntinlupa) also suggested that the committee look into the laws that are needed to be passed and that can substitute for the ATB.

The committee is expected to fast track its deliberations on the ATB as the bill has been certified as urgent by the president after the Feb. 14 bombings in Makati, the country’s financial district.

Meanwhile, the justice committee faces tougher days ahead as it starts the hearings on the Macapagal-Arroyo impeachment on Aug. 10.

Skirting an agreement

Roque also said that the country needs to legislate on the international humanitarian law to penalize persons who do not comply with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), a rights agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). The agreement was signed in 1998.

Revolutionary movements worldwide consider the CARHRIHL a breakthrough it being the only human rights agreement signed by parties engaged in a civil war.

However, Roque said the CARHRIHL is “just an agreement in principle to observe but if any of them would breach the agreement there are no provisions on how to deal with the breach.”

On the contrary, human rights lawyer Edre Olalia said in a separate interview, that there is such provision as stated in Part 5 of the agreement. The provision states that both parties shall receive complaints of human rights and international humanitarian law, investigate such cases and recommend specific actions toward these.

Olalia, who is also a legal consultant of the NDFP, said that both the GRP and NDFP have, in fact, created last year the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) to determine if both parties comply with its provisions. They have set up a Joint Secretariat (JS) which is tasked to document violations of both parties.

“In principle, there is a system and a structure to address violations of the agreement. In practice, however, the JMC is being limited to accepting complaints,” Olalia said. Since its operations started, 386 complaints have been filed against military, police, paramilitary and other agents of the GRP while eight cases have been lodged at the NDFP Section.

Olalia also said there is no need to legislate laws to ensure adherence to the CARHRIHL it being a bicameral agreement entered into by the two belligerent parties in the context of the peace negotiations. (Bulatlat.com)

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