February 16, 2007

Wolf in sheep's clothing

How ironic that while the rest of the world, including the people of the USA, are waking up to the Bush administration’s big fat lies about the “war on terror”, Filipinos continue to be fed with the same sort of lies by the Arroyo regime. In fact the latter is in the process of completing the railroading of a so-called Anti-Terrorism Bill (ATB) that is the result of high-profile lobbying as well as arm-twisting by high officials of the Bush government. A two-day special session of the Lower House of Congress has been called by Mrs. Arroyo to ratify the bill so that she can quickly sign it into law.

The Bush administration, bent on establishing unchallenged US economic, political and military domination over the world, seized the horrific events of 9/11 to generate mass paranoia about “terrorism” (or what it labeled as “terrorism”) and blind support for what it trumpets is a “war on terror” but which is in fact an imperialist war of terror.

In the process it has funneled hundreds of billions to favored contractors in the military-industrial complex, let loose the dogs of war in the unjust invasion, occupation and destruction of Afghanistan and Iraq, enacted repressive laws such as the US PATRIOT ACT (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) and the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and caused the unprecedented flouting of international human rights and humanitarian law standards by allowing the use of torture and inhumane treatment on prisoners accused of “terrorism” and denying them basic legal rights to defend themselves in a court of law.

Imposing a black or white, “either you are with us or against us” kind of politico-military alignment, the US has hoodwinked, inveigled and pretty much threatened the rest of the world to join or support its wars of aggression and intervention in the guise of fighting a borderless, indeterminate war against “terrorism”.

It is in this true context that we are witnessing the enactment in our country of the “Human Security Act of 2007” or “An Act to Secure the State and Protect the People from Terrorism” that is meant to mislead and camouflage the inhuman character and object of the bill.

While earlier versions of the bill were undisguised pieces of fascist legislation that were clearly an affront on the people’s civil, political and human rights, and thus could not stand muster in a senate that has a predominantly oppositionist make-up (not to mention a smattering of senators posturing as human rights defenders) this final bicameral bill is said to have been “defanged” to the point of being harmless.

We vehemently disagree. The Anti-Terrorism Bill that House Speaker de Venecia is itching to pass under his leadership and Mrs. Arroyo is aching to sign (as she herself announced) is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Simply put, the proposed bill lays the legal basis for an undeclared martial rule or the return to a fascist dictatorship disguised as merely being part and parcel of the US-led “war on terror”. The claimed “safety nets” against abuse that erstwhile opponents have introduced are ineffectual and a sham.

The US-backed Arroyo regime and its military and police minions can still use the ATB to outlaw and suppress all legal dissent and opposition by unilaterally declaring these as “terrorist” on the basis of manufactured intelligence reports and the claims of false witnesses. They also have the law to back them up when they interchangeably label “rebels” as “terrorists”. In one fell stroke they will have demonized the former and reduced a revolutionary armed movement with the undisputed history of fighting the Marcos fascist dictatorship and struggling for fundamental reforms into nothing but a bunch of heartless, despicable criminals.

The bill pays lip service to "uphold(ing) the basic and fundamental rights of the people..." then proceeds to enumerate the ways in which those rights are to be undermined and attacked.

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 the Sec. 18, Article VII 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 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 representative 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 militarist 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 opponents 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 US backers as they face a problematic mid-term elections, 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.#

*Published in Business World
16-17 February 2007


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