According to Senate President Tito Sotto, “Terrorists or their supporters are the only ones who will be afraid of the bill“. If this is the foundation of the argument for the Anti-Terrorism Law, then the more the reason that everybody should be afraid of the law because logic is misplaced if not outright missing.
Assuming, arguendo, that the claim of Sotto is sound — that is, terrorists or their supporters are the only ones afraid of the bill. Shall we say then that all the the politicians are corrupt because they are afraid of passing an honest-to-goodness anti-corruption law? Or shall we say then that all the legislators are dynasts because they do not want to pass an anti-political dynasty law? Or that they are political butterflies because they do not want to pass a law that bans politicians who transfers from one party to another everytime a new President is in power? To put it bluntly, is Sotto saying that God (Allah, the Supreme Being or whoever this Great Deity is called) is not powerful because He (or She) could not make a rock too heavy for Him (or Her) to lift?
Second, Sotto said in an interview that “Ang dami kong naririnig at nababasa sa social media na mukhang di naiintindihan eh, katakot-takot na pintas, hindi nila alam itong anti-terror bill na bago, daming epal ika nga. Iyung pinipintas nila wala don sa bill (I hear and read so many posts on social media that makes it appear they don’t understand, it’s all criticism, they don’t know this new anti-terror bill. The basis of their criticism is not in the bill.”
If criticizing a legislative measure is easily considered as an “epal” then it is not impossible for critics of the government to be suspected of terrorism, or supporting terrorists. And being suspected as such, they can be easily arrested and detained — worse, without even a warrant as per Section 29 of the Anti-Terrorism measure. That section is precisely taken from the legislative measure itself and it clearly stipulates that warrant-less arrest for mere suspicion of being a terrorist or supporting a terrorist will be made legal. Is that being “epal”?
The point here is: If the Senate President could only look at things as either black or white, and he could not even consider the possibility that constructive opinion or positive dissent exists, how much more those who are going to implement the law? Note again that with mere suspicion, one can be detained for 14 days that can be extended to 10 more days. Suspicion, dear, suspicion. And suspicions are wrong, most of the time. Health Secretary Francisco Duque, for instance, was even cocksure that the Philippines is a model country for addressing Covid-19 right? But he was proven wrong when data started to pour in. How much more is “suspicion”?
Or simply, let us put it this way and we will need to crowd source the intelligence of the supporters of the terrorizing measure: Should President Rodrigo Duterte be arrested by virtue of the Anti-Terrorism Act (assuming that it already became a law) because he once claimed to have supported the New People’s Army rebels (NPAs)? Should the President be arrested because, not only was he a friend of Joma Sison but also appointed suspected NPAs in the Cabinet?
Well, penal laws may not have retroactive effect and thus we cannot punish President Duterte for his previous acts, right? But assuming that he signs this into a law. Can he now be arrested and detained without a warrant of arrest because he had not fired yet a Cabinet official that the military tags as a member of the terrorist group? And, shall government officials and die-hard Duterte supporters who are advocating for a revolutionary government, or at least those pushing for federalism, be automatically arrested because they are advocating not just the destruction but the replacement of the current government? Note that Section 4 (b) of the legislative measure defines terrorism as engaging “in acts intended to cause extensive damage or destruction to a government or public facility, public place or private property”. Replacing a government is damaging or destroying that government, right?
Well, if the President and these pro-revolutionary government officials will not be arrested, then clearly, there will be a double standards in implementation of justice. Just look at this tweet:
Again, we are not against an anti-terrorism law. But the fact that the current measure has been haphazardly done, with the logic of the foundations of the law wanting, and with the perspective of the authors seemingly misplaced, then the more that such a law should not be allowed.