BY DABET CASTAÑEDA
The Anti-Terrorism Bill, as passed by the House of Representatives on third reading, may be “used politically to erroneously charge with terrorism and improperly extradite” the known leaders of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) based in The Netherlands. The bill also demonizes national liberation movements which, a human rights lawyer said, disregards articles of International Humanitarian Law.
Passed by a predominantly pro-administration House of Representatives (HOR) on third reading last April 5, HB 4839 or the Anti-Terrorism Bill maybe “preparatory to the improper extradition” of known leaders of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). These include NDFP Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison, Chair Luis Jalandoni, and other members of the international secretariat.
The NDFP holds office in Utrecht, The Netherlands where Sison has been applying for political asylum for 19 years.
Sison is the founding chair of the reestablished Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in 1968 and a founding member of its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA) in 1969. He suffered almost 14 years in jail during Martial Law and was freed in 1986 after the people’s 14-year struggle against the dictatorship of former President Ferdinand Marcos ended with a people power uprising known today as EDSA 1.
He was forced to live in exile in The Netherlands when his passport was cancelled while on an international speaking engagement in 1987.
After Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo put the country under a state of national emergency through Presidential Proclamation 1017 (PP 1017) on Feb. 24, Sison was tagged as one of the conspirators who planned to overthrow the Macapagal-Arroyo administration.
He, together with six party-list representatives and leaders of progressive organizations in the country, was charged with conspiring with six rebel military officers in planning a foiled coup against Macapagal-Arroyo on the same day PP 1017 was declared.
On Feb. 27, the Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management (DIDM) charged them with rebellion. Preliminary investigation was held March 13 at the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Manila.
The case against Sison and the rest was not dismissed even after PP 1017 has been lifted March 3.
As a general rule in criminal law, human rights lawyer Edre Olalia of the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) and convenor of the new lawyers’ group Counsels for the Defense of Liberties (CODAL), said the law only applies within its territorial jurisdiction.
In this case, the Revised Penal Code (RPC) should only apply within the country. The RPC, however, identifies five exceptions, namely: those committed while on a Philippine ship or airship; those who forge or counterfeit any coin or currency note of the Philippine Islands or obligations and securities issued by the Government of the Philippine Islands; those liable for acts connected with the introduction into these islands of the obligations and securities mentioned in the presiding number; while being public officers or employees, those who commit an offense in the exercise of their functions; and those who commit any crimes against national security and the law of nations.
After 76 years of the RPC, the ATB adds terrorism as an exemption to this rule. Section 28 of the ATB (Extra-Territorial Application of this Act) states, “The provision of Article 2(5) of the RPC is hereby amended to include the crimes penalized under Sections 4, 6, and 7 of this Act.”
Under the said sections, murder, threat, coercion, arson, kidnapping, illegal possession of firearms and explosives and the use of landmines are considered acts of terrorism.
If seen in this context, Olalia said Sison, Jalandoni and other leaders of the NDFP based abroad may be “erroneously charged with terrorism, and improperly extradited.”
“The long arm of Philippine law can now extend even outside its territorial jurisdiction by putting terrorism as one of the crimes that the RPC can be applied,” Olalia said.
The ATB is an open contempt of existing International Humanitarian Laws (IHL), Olalia added. IHL indicates the legitimate acts of war as stated in the Geneva Conventions and Protocols 1 and 2.
“It is bad enough that the GRP does not follow IHL,” Olalia said, referring to serious violations of the GRP to the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Law (CARHRIHL), an agreement signed by the GRP and NDFP in 1998. “In addition to these violations, the GRP is trying to twist the principles of IHL by saying that liberation movements which are accorded the status of belligerency under IHL are terrorists.”
The principle of IHL, Olalia said, states that groups like the CPP and NPA are liberation movements and have a status of belligerency in international law and, therefore, cannot be considered as terrorist. He said that the NPA, for example, conforms to the rules of war, has a responsible political command and is an organized army, among others.
Aside from watering down civil and political rights instituted in the Bill of Rights, the ATB is a legitimate threat to national liberation movements, Olalia said.
“(As it is,) captured guerillas or those who are perceived as rebels are not being charged with the proper crime of rebellion as stated in the Hernandez doctrine. Worse, with the ATB, the GRP is demonizing liberation movements by saying they are terrorists,” Olalia said.
It is sad that the GRP, he said, resorted to using the strong-arm approach to the resolution of the armed conflict rather than resolving the root causes of armed revolution.
Aside from demonizing the national liberation movements, Olalia said that the ATB is the final component of Macapagal-Arroyo’s tyrannical rule following the declaration of the calibrated preemptive response (CPR) which essentially allows the police to disperse rallies without permits, Executive Order 464 which prevents government officials from appearing in congressional hearings without the President’s permission and the government’s ongoing campaign for charter change.
“Any tyrant or fascist leader needs formal legal structures to put a semblance of legitimacy to his or her rule,” he said. (Bulatlat.com)