July 15 has lapsed and the moment we’ve all been dreading has arrived. Finally, the administration was able to make the horse pass through the needle eye. The impossible has happened. And our basic freedoms have all but gone to exile.
As of late, people are awaiting the unfortunate one who gets to be the first “victim” of the ironically-named Human Security Act, or the antiterror law.
The law has met many dissenting opinions, even during its proposition and deliberation. We discussed the first versions of the law in our J100 class, and clearly, there are many provisions that need some brushing up. Some safeguards weren’t enough, while some pretend to be safeguards when they actually are not.
The problematic state to which the law is in right now lies on its very fundamental component: the definition of terrorism. The law so vaguely defines it as “an act sowing and creating a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace, in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand.”
By theory we all know how terrorism looks like: World Trade Center, Iraqi suicide bomber, Abu Sayyaf, etc. But to qualify the act to a meager sentence is a bit problematic. The attempt by the law to encapsulate the act in such a definition fails in many aspects.
One, fear and panic are very subjective indicators. One who surprises someone by sneaking up his back and shouting “BULAGA” can very well cause fear and panic upon the person. As Atty. Hilbay put it, these are factors to which one cannot produce a clear and tangible evidence, an element that is needed in the establishment of the alleged crime.
Two, the definition umbrellas numerous crimes already existing in the Revised Penal Code. A rape can cause fear and panic, while a murder is sure to sow widespread and extraordinary terror even to the non-victims. How do we qualify terrorism, then?
According to Atty. Hilbay, we don’t. What is needed is a more rigorous implementation of the existing laws, not a new one to blanket over what is already there.
But the questions don’t stop there. Another reason why this law is very highly contested is the fact that it contains a thousand and one ambiguities.
Take, for example, where it says that ‘bugging’ or ‘wiretapping’ of journalists shall not be authorized (a pretentious safeguard). Why then has Sec. Gonzalez made a very strong assertion that ‘media can be bugged’? Are we on the same page? Or has one of his screws gone loose again?
Several sectors have issued statements seeking its repeal. Sec. Norberto Gonzales said it’s okay to push through with it without an IRR. Legally, according to Atty. Hilbay, a law doesn’t necessarily need an IRR. But with a very vague law such as this, he said, an IRR is mandatory. How else are we going to disambiguate it without a very specific IRR?
All things being equal, it’s quite asked of us to seek the context of the said law. When was it passed? Why was it rushed? What’s the political situation in the country? What are the possible implications of its enactment?
Clearly, one only needs to peek behind the curtains of this one spectacular show. And you all know what I’m talking about.
“I remembered this speech shortly after I read about Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo asking everyone, the media in particular, to rally behind her in her effort to leave a legacy to the nation. I knew I had heard those same words before. I knew I had heard GMA tell the world she was no longer interested in politics but would spend the remaining time she had to do well by this country … When GMA talks of leaving a lasting legacy, she means herself.”