Rights Defenders Slam SC Ruling on Terror Law; It Will Worsen Abuses, They Say

“Why wait for an actual injury when you have the singular opportunity to slay the dragon at first sight?” said Edre U. Olalia, legal counsel of the petitioners against the Human Security Act of 2007 in an interview with Bulatlat.


Sidebar: Recent SC Decisions Detrimental to Human Rights -– Rights Lawyer

MANILA – Voting unanimously, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Human Security Act of 2007 (Republic Act No. 9372).

In a 45-page decision, the high court junked six consolidated petitions challenging the legality of the law, saying that the petitioners have no locus standi (legal standing) to question the Human Security Act because none of them have been charged under the said law. ?

“Petitioners’ apprehension is insufficient to substantiate their plea. That no specific charge or proscription under RA 9372 has been filed against them, three years after its effectivity, belies any claim of imminence of their perceived threat…” the court ruled.?

The court also said the fears that the enforcement of the law will lead to abuse were merely imagined.

“Allegations of abuse must be anchored on real events before courts may step in to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable,” it said.

The petitioners were disappointed.

“Why wait for an actual injury when you have the singular opportunity to slay the dragon at first sight?” said Edre U. Olalia, legal counsel of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in its petition against the Human Security Act of 2007.

Olalia, also acting secretary general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), added that the recent decision is a “cause for great concern.”

“It is regrettable that the court of last resort missed the opportunity to uphold human rights in this case,” Olalia told Bulatlat.

Dangerous Provisions

Petitioners have pointed out that the law contains ‘dangerous provisions.’

The law authorizes detention of suspects for three days without warrant of arrest in so-called preventive detention of suspected terrorists, restrict travel or place them under house arrest.

Law enforcement officials are allowed to use any mode, form, kind or type of electronic or other surveillance equipment or intercepting and tracking devices against suspects of terrorism.

The law also allows authorities to examine bank deposits, accounts and records of suspected terrorists and their alleged conspirators.

Proscription of terrorist organizations or the legal procedure of labeling groups as terrorist organizations, is also cited in the law. The military has tagged many progressive organizations as fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, but the high court said it is not tantamount to proscription.

?”There is yet to be filed before the courts an application to declare the CPP and NPA organizations as domestic terrorist or outlawed organizations under RA 9372,” the SC said. ?

Roneo Clamor, acting secretary of Karapatan, said leaders and members of mass organizations may not have been charged under RA 9372 but many have been slapped with ‘conjured criminal charges.’

Clamor, husband of Dr. Merry Mia-Clamor, one of the so-called Morong 43, added that warrantless arrests and abductions are, in fact, already being committed by the state.

“It is the state authorities, especially its security forces in the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] and PNP [Philippine National Police], that are acting based on their wild imagination, which is inimical to human rights,” Clamor said.

Emboldening Human Rights Violators

Both Karapatan and Bayan deemed that the law would embolden more human rights violations.

“The SC’s failure to rule on the merits of the petitions may embolden human rights violators among state security forces to carry out more abuses using the anti-terror law. We have seen both the deliberate acts of repression and the sheer incompetence of many state security forces,” Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.?

Clamor said human rights violations in the Philippines has continued under the Aquino administration as attested by 16 reported cases of extra-judicial killings, two victims of enforced disappearances, and the continued detention of political prisoners.

“If violations were rampant even before the SC ruling, then it would definitely worsen with a strengthened legal framework by which state authorities could suppress civil and political liberties. This is paving way for more violation of human rights,” Clamor said.

The groups said they would consult their lawyers on their next legal moves. (Bulatlat.com)

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