ATB, an Arm of Greater Terror – Senator Madrigal

On the social and political, my concerns on the proposed anti-terrorism legislation are as follows:

* In the hands of a repressive regime, such as that of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the anti-terrorism bill will create a shadow criminal justice system that, in turn will be used as an instrument of a greater terror perpetrated by people in power against their critics and political opponents. I am deeply bothered by the incident that occurred in the raid on a Good Shepherd Convent in the Philippine province of Butuan and the statement made by the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the province of Bulacan that, churches can be used as sites for conducting anti-insurgency campaigns. Recently, the Armed Forces of the Philippines sent a chilling message to all human rights defenders when it called for the labeling of the reputable Amnesty International as a “persona non grata.”

* We are against the use of violence against civilians. But national security should not be used as an excuse to stifle the freedoms and the human rights guaranteed by the Constitution. We agree with the position taken by Amnesty International that, “security and human rights are not alternatives; they go hand in hand.” Respect for human rights is the route to security, not an obstacle to it. The route to security is through respect for human rights, not their violations. As the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has stressed: “While we certainly need vigilance to prevent acts of terrorism… it will be self-defeating if we sacrifice other key priorities — such as human rights — in the process.”

* Worldwide, there is now a growing clamor for either the repeal of or modification of existing terrorism laws. In 2004, India, a country which has faced serious threats from terrorism and other forms of political violence, took a significant step forward for human rights by repealing the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 2002. In Canada, a Federal Judge has struck out as unconstitutional the definition of terrorist based on his political or religious belief. And most recently, according to a news report, United States District Federal Law Judge Audrey Collins in a 21 November 2006 ruling struck down as “unconstitutionally vague,” an executive order of President Bush allowing the latter to create a list of specially designated global terrorist groups. The same ruling also enjoined the government of the United States from blocking the assets of two (2) foreign groups – the Tamil Liberation Tigers of Sri Lanka and the Partiya Karkeran Kurdistan of Turkey which were placed on the list. This ruling is significant considering the fact that, the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army are also unjustly labeled and included in the list of the United States as “foreign terrorist organizations” and Professor Jose Maria Sison as a “terrorist.” This ruling only amplifies the argument that the meaning of terrorism is often determined by context rather than a logical explanation.

* In a report on India’s Anti-Terrorism and Security Law prepared by the Association of the Bar of the City of New York for the Committee on International Human Rights, it said that, “Attentiveness to these human rights concern is not simply a moral and legal imperative, but also a crucial strategic imperative. As the Supreme Court of India has recognized, “terrorism often thrives where human rights are violated, and the lack of hope for justice provides breeding grounds for terrorism.”

* Present anti-terrorism legislations rely on the same institutions used in fighting other crimes – the police or military, the prosecution and the judiciary. More often than not, these same institutions have been tainted with doubts and their competency to protect human rights laws seriously undermined. If these same institutions are used to confront the so-called menace of terrorism, intense pressure will only subject them to commit further abuses.

I am not alone in raising these concerns. In my visit to Europe last month, the International Commission on Jurists, the International Federation of Journalists, Amnesty International and Members of Parliaments have also expressed the same concerns. More recently, the European Union diplomatic corps in the Philippines have also expressed their concerns on the Anti-terrorism Bill, particularly with the version re-imposing the death penalty.

I have studied the issue on terrorism well particularly with respect to human rights. I intend to introduce in the Senate a bill on this proposed legislation that will introduce a paradigm shift on how we view security or “insecurity” by the state.

To break this cycle of merely legislating offenses without addressing the root problem of why terrorism exists, it is necessary to protect human rights and adopt a paradigm shift on how we view issues on security.

This shift can be done by adopting the principles of Human Security. Human security refers to the security of individuals, as opposed to national security, which refers to the security of states. The key elements of my proposed bill are:

• Adopt as a State policy to value the dignity of every human person and guarantee full respect for human rights as the means for ensuring the security of its people. Towards this end, the State shall adopt human security measures to protect the people from pervasive threats to their rights, safety and lives.

• Such measure, shall include conflict management and post-conflict peace-building, to addressing the roots of conflict by building state capacity and promoting equitable economic development. The State shall further advance the protection and promotion of human rights, the rule of law, the culture of peace and the peaceful resolution of conflicts by adopting interventions that are people-centered.

• Includes a separate chapter devoted entirely on Human Rights, such as:

* recognition and equality before the law;
* right to life;
* protection from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment;
* protection of the family and children as the basic unit of society;
* protection of the right to privacy and reputation;
* freedom of movement;
* freedom of thought, conscience and belief;
* peaceful assembly and freedom of expression;
* right to liberty and security of person;
* right to humane treatment when deprived of liberty;
* right to fair trial;
* compensation for wrongful conviction;
* right not to be punished more than once;
* right of ethnic, religious or linguistic groups

• Strengthens the Philippines’ constitutional body – the Commission on Human Rights by giving it prosecutorial powers on human rights abuses, and requiring it to adopt human security programs that will address the root causes of conflicts.

Most of us here can recall when Pope Paul VI told the United Nations, “If you want to be brothers, let the arms fall from your hands.”

And we remember how he made that emphatic, and immortal appeal, “No more war, war never again! Never one against the other.”

His hope, his entreaty, is our hope and our earnest prayer; but it is nowhere near being accomplished reality either in his time or in ours. But “Jamais la guerre!” That is what he prayed; and it is what we must pray –and work to achieve. Our work begins with speaking forcefully, and in a unified manner, against such draconian laws and their approval. We ask your support and seek your intercession in asking the non-passage of this proposed measure.

The Honorable Members of the Jurists Panel, Ladies and gentlemen.
Jamais le terrorisme! Never again, the terrorism of the state against its own! Posted by (

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