Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing*

Concretely, “terrorism” suspects will be denied due process and the presumption of innocence. A person can be deprived of his liberty, the right to travel and the right to communicate (even by means of a telephone) on the mere suspicion of terrorism and even where “evidence of guilt is not strong”. For example, Sec. 26 states:

“In cases where evidence of guilt is not strong, and the person charged is …granted… bail, the court shall …limit the right of travel of the accused to within the municipality or city where he resides. He or she may also be placed under house arrest by order of the court… While under house arrest, he or she may not use telephones, cell phones, emails, computers, the internet or other means of communications with people outside his residence until otherwise ordered by the court.”

Under Sec. 19, in the event of alleged “actual or imminent terrorist attack,” suspects may be detained for 48 hours without warrant. Municipal, city, provincial or regional human rights commission officials are authorized to order the detention of suspected terrorists beyond 48 hours. This is a clear violation of Art. VII, Sec. 18 of the Constitution
which provides that “During the suspension of the privilege of the writ, any person thus arrested or detained shall be judicially charged within three days, otherwise he shall be released.”

With the evidence for an “imminent” terrorist attack easily concocted by the military or police, who have the nasty habit of giving false warnings about New People’s Army (NPA) and/or Muslim rebels infiltrating rallies and demonstrations to sow terror, any person suspected of rebellion or insurrection, which are, by the way, considered terrorist acts under Sec. 3 of the bill, may now be detained indefinitely upon orders of a municipal officer. Thus will the ATB be used additionally to the current jurisprudence on warrantless arrests of suspected rebels that has been abused for the longest time as in the celebrated case of Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Crispin Beltran.

Human rights lawyers and civil libertarians have all pointed to many more reprehensible provisions of the anti-terror law including the dangerously vague and broad definition of “terrorism” virtually wiping out legitimate protest and demolishing the peace processes with the communist and Muslim separatist revolutionary movements; the illegalization of organizations declared as “terrorist” by an Anti-Terrorism Council headed by Mrs. Arroyo and packed by the most hard-line militarists and fascists in her Cabinet; an intensified and indiscriminate wiretapping that will do away with constitutional guarantees to privacy and will render government critics and oppositors vulnerable to unfair prosecution and political persecution.

Why all the rush to pass the bill before the elections? Apart from being a feather in the cap for the Arroyo-de Venecia clique, both eager to please their U.S. backers as they face a problematic mid-term election, we believe this fascist legislation is being readied for the expected backlash against the anticipated systematic and wholesale cheating by the Arroyo administration in the coming May polls. Business World / Posted by (Bulatlat.com)

*Published in Business World
16-17 February 2007

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