June 14, 2020 (4:07 PM)

5 min read


SCRUTINIZING TERROR. Atty. Chel Diokno of FLAG and AdDU law professor, Atty. Jet Pascua assert their stand against ATB as they discuss its authorship during the All-Ateneo Online Pakighinabi: Freedom From Terror [Bill], June 12.

Despite the recent transmission of the Anti-Terrorism Bill (ATB) to Malacanang, Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) Chairman Atty. Jose Manuel ‘Chel’ Diokno and Ateneo de Davao University College of Law Professor Atty. Edgar ‘Jet’ Pascua stood firm that the ATB should be scrapped, emphasizing its ‘vagueness’ and ‘unconstitutionality’.

As one of the lead discussants in the “Freedom From Terror [Bill]” Pakighinabi last June 12, Diokno asserted that all laws are supposed to be consistent to the constitution. The ATB, however, was for him a ‘legal game changer’.

“I am against terrorism and I believe it is a big problem internationally and even in the country. We cannot address it with a solution that is so broad that it could sweep easily people that have nothing to do with terrorism,” Diokno said.

Section 29 of the ATB otherwise known as House Bill No. 6875 states that the Anti-Terrorism Council can authorize the detention of a suspected terrorist initially for 14 days and can be extendible to another 10 days without any charges being filed in court.

“The executive department can authorize detention without warrant. Bago nitong terror bill, ang puwede lang mag mag-authorize ng detention, lalong lalo na na walang warrant of arrest ay ang korte. Only a judge under the Constitution can issue a warrant of arrest, or if someone is already arrested without warrant, can issue a commitment order,” Diokno said.

Complementing his co-discussant’s disapproval of the authority of the council, Pascua noted that the ATC cannot act as a court for “it does not have judicial powers and it has no autonomy”.

Human Security Act of 2007 vs ATB

Diokno further expressed his objection to the authority of the Anti-Terrorism Council distinguishing the processes of the Human Security Act of 2007 and the said Anti-Terrorism Bill in proscribing a terrorist organization.

“Kung titingnan natin yung Human Security Act, meron lang siyang power to proscribe a terrorist organization – they go to court of appeals, they file a petition, [and] if the CA believes on sufficient basis, [then the CA] grants the petition. If mangyari yan pwedeng i-freeze ang kanilang assets, electronic monitoring and more,” Diokno explained.

“At least in that situation, ang Court ang magde-decide. The courts are independent of the executive department and also they are supposed to be impartial and objective,” the human rights lawyer added.

Unlike the Court which observes due process and proscribes based on sufficient evidence, Diokno highlighted that in the ATB, there is an additional element he referred to as ‘power to designate’ directly.

“Once you are designated by the ATC as suspected terrorist pwede ng mafreeze ang assets nang walang judicial approval.”

Moreover, Diokno stressed that the provision found in the Human Security Act, ensuring that the law itself cannot be used for politics, was not among the provisions in the proposed law.

“Under Human Security Act, may nakalagay diyan the act shall be suspended one month before and two months after every election. Bakit nila nilagay noon? That is para di nila magamit sa pulitika. I looked up the bill and wala na yung provision na yan.”

Silencing the opposition

While authors of the anti-terrorism bill claim that it would not be used against the critics of the administration, Diokno said that authorities can easily charge individuals and groups with “inciting to terrorism” in the same way that then Otso Diretso opposition party candidates and even Vice President Leni Robredo were filed with “inciting to sedition”.

“… sinampahan kami ng inciting to sedition … and yet later on, sabi ng DOJ eh wala naman palang sapat na ebidensya para ituloy ang kaso. If it is that easy to be charged with inciting to sedition, papano pa kaya kung naipasabatas itong anti-terror bill na mayroon ng inciting to terrorism?”

Diokno believed that the bill poses an immense danger for “it will be used against people who are innocent or who are known to be politically opposed to the administration.

‘Too excessive’

Section 18, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution states that “during the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, any person thus arrested or detained shall be judicially charged within three days, otherwise he or she  shall be released.”

Pascua pondered that the initial 14-day detention of suspected terrorists, not including the extension of 10 days for cause, is very excessive as the Constitution only observes a three-day rule.

Furthermore, he expressed his skepticism with the observance of checks and balances since sitting members of the ATB all come from the executive department, hence being “alter-egos of the president”.

“This implies a seeming contradiction of interests. When the prosecutor dismisses a complaint …, the procedure or recourse may be made by way of motion for reconsideration then thereafter, a petition to the secretary of justice, who again, is a member of the ATC. In fact, with the chain of command of the DOJ or within the DOJ, this threatens the delivery of justice,” Pascua noted.

Meanwhile, the panel of discussants was composed of student-leaders from Ateneo college campuses all over the country. They respectively shared their insights and read each student government’s official statements on the ATB.

Commemorating the country’s 122nd Independence Day, Diokno urged viewers to value the blood and sacrifices of their forebears and reminded them not to underestimate the power of public opinion.

“We should never underestimate the power of the human spirit, especially the Filipino spirit.”

“Freedom From Terror [Bill]” was the first All-Ateneo Online Pakighinabi hosted by the SAMAHAN and the University Community Engagement and Advocacy Council (UCEAC). The event was live-streamed via Facebook through the AdDU official page. 

End the silence of the gagged!

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