Controversial Anti-Terror Law Stirs Confusion, Fear In Philippines

July 5, 2007 at 11:07 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

DAVAO CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 05 Jul) – Filipino students and youth organization are joining with other progressive forces calling to scrap the Human Security Act (HSA). They say the law would only set precedent for more anti-student policies.

Youth organizations headed by ANAKBAYAN in Southern Mindanao, National Union of Students in the Philippines (NUSP), League of Filipino Students (LFS) and College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), said the Arroyo administration had not been successful in providing education for the youth, but instead nailed itself on self-serving policies.

On February 8, 2007, the Senate passed on a final reading the Anti-Terrorism Act or the Human Security Act of 2007. The HSA is an act that aims to put an end to terrorism and all its forms.

“HSA only violates the basic civil right of every Filipino youth,” Arvin Gutang, ANAKBAYAN vice president for Mindanao, said. “It limits the right of every youth to criticize the government and exercise their right to freedom of expression given the provision of the so-called ‘warrantless’ arrests to suspected ‘terrorists’,” he added. Gutang said that in the course of analyzing the HSA, there are certain provisions under the act that are doubtful and can be subject to abuse.

According to Karlos Manlupig, LFS Davao City coordinator, “the said law would set a precedent for an undeclared Martial Law by the Arroyo administration. HSA will even aggravate ‘state terrorism’. Given the track record of the Arroyo government, the HSA will give more powers to a regime that continues to violate human rights.”

“The youth and students are threatened about the ongoing militarization inside state colleges and universities, private campuses and other educational institutions because of the presence of the military inside the campuses as well as the re-instituted Reserved Officer Training Corps Act and the recent HSA,” said Andrhea Carreon, NUSP-Davao City chapter spokesperson.

“We disapprove of this law just as we dislike and criticize the current educational system under the Arroyo regime. Since youth organizations and other progressive groups are now being tagged as ‘terrorists’, we are very susceptible to the threat of this ambiguous law. Therefore, criticizing the government and fighting for civil and democratic rights is tantamount to saying that you are a ‘terrorist’,” Carreon said.

Meanwhile, Nisa Opalla, CEGP secretary general, said that aside from HSA and militarization inside campuses, the Arroyo administration is making sure that the voices of the students are curbed and controlled through the new CHED Memorandum Orders that is implemented through the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

“CHED is now trying to manipulate the student governments and councils as well as the student publications by releasing three new CMOs. Two of which involves the student councils and student publications,” Opalla said.

“The formation of the National Council of Student Governments in the Philippines and National Council of Campus Journalists in the Philippines are scrupulous acts of the Arroyo government to manipulate the voices of the students,” she said.

NCSGP and NCCJP are both formed by the Commission to “establish a working institutional partnership between the CHED-Office of Student Services and Office of Student Affairs and ’empowered’ student governments and campus journalists in various Higher Educational Institutions, private and public, sectarian or non-sectarian, in the country.”

The youth groups stressed that both organizations formed by CHED are “puppet” organizations controlled by CHED and the administration of the colleges and universities.

They warn the student councils and student publications to be conscious of the said organizations as it would lead to the crippling of the autonomous nature of the student councils and publications from the school administration.

“Together with the Tuition and Other Fees Increase (TOFI), these anti-student policies are the various faces of terrorism that the Arroyo administration has put forward to the Filipino youth. The HSA is a grand master plan of the government in silencing the struggling voices of the youth and students.” Opalla stated.

The youth organizations are planning to build an alliance to combat the anti-student policies which hinder the youth from getting free and accessible education. It will be composed of secondary and tertiary student councils and publications as well as the various student clubs, youth organizations, religious groups, faculty and parents in Davao City.

The said alliance will discuss the possible solutions of the students and youth problems specifically on the issue of education and anti-youth policies.

Journalists were also threatening to seek court action and launch a “counter- information” drive on the anto-terrorism law after Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez allegedly claimed that they can be wiretapped on suspicion of being a terrorists or aiding a terrorist.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said it is time the media united to question the “draconian measures” the government is taking through the anti-terror law.

“We know the government had banned the media from interviewing coup plotters and spokesmen like Gregorio ‘Ka Roger’ Rosal. That is dismaying and it may lead to a test case,” NUJP national directorate member Inday Varona said in Filipino during an interview on dzXL radio.

She said the journalists will likely question the anti-terror law’s violation of their right to protect their news sources.

Varona scored Gonzalez in particular for hinting that journalists can be wiretapped if they are suspected to be in contact with terrorists by airing interviews with them.

“The media should be ready for a test case that may come its way,” she said.

She said the NUJP is planning to mount a media campaign to counter the “information campaign” the government is planning.

“If the government will go around with an information drive, we will also go around with our own information drive questioning some of its draconian measures,” she said.

Senator Jamby Madrigal has filed Senate Bill No. 23 seeking to repeal R.A. 9372 or the Human Security Act of 2007.

She reiterated that the Human Security Act is probably the most dangerous piece of legislation passed by the Philippine Congress. The law is replete with provisions that ravage constitutional guarantees such as freedom of speech, freedom of communication and correspondence, right to travel, as well as an individual’s right to be secure in their things and in their person.

“This draconian law should be shredded to pieces and thrown into the garbage bin. The use of violence against civilians under any guise should be opposed. National Security should not be used as an excuse to stifle basic freedoms and constitutionally-guaranteed human rights,” Madrigal said.

Madrigal said the anti-terrorism law creates a shadow criminal justice system and can be used as an instrument of greater terror perpetrated by people in power against their critics and political opponents.

“There is no clear definition of who a terrorist is. A person maybe labeled as one by reason solely of his or her political or religious belief and his or her defense thereof. The vagueness of defining a terrorist is not limited to the Philippines. Since 1995, the United Nations has yet to come up with a clear definition of who or what constitutes a terrorist,” she said. (With reports from Leigh Dalugdog and GMANews.TV)

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