That the government of the Philippines wants to strengthen its legislation and its power to contain and control terrorists makes sense. Especially with the recent insurgency in Marawi in Mindanao and the Red Brigade there. The Government is within its right to extend its powers, ensure safety of its territory and rules to stop future insurgencies and terror attacks on the Filipino Nation. That is all understandable, however, they should still consider the implications and what a new law does to freedom of expression, liberty and justice for all. That it doesn’t come in conflict with these ideals.
Some of the things that is striking out in this new anti-terrorist law is that it will create a new legal instrument, a new precedence, where appointed top cabinet officials will have the opportunity to participate and issue arrest orders through the Anti-Terror Council (ATC). Meaning, it is lawmakers and technocrats who are finding whose deemed fit for becoming terror suspect and whose associated with terrorist. This is not done by detective or intelligence officers, no, but appointed cronies of the state. That is worrying enough itself.
That the law also stretches the ability to keep people arrested without warrants and eases the means of wire-tapping, surveillance and such. It is surely done in a sense of safeguarding the public, but at the same time. If the ATC somehow deems someone randomly, they can easily arrest someone in the name of terror, allegedly say they are terrorist without a trial keep someone in custody for about 14 days with a possibility of a 10 day extension.
If a person is really unlucky, let’s say a journalist or an activists. Whose suddenly posting a press release or statement from a questionable organization. That the ATC might deem as Terrorist. Than, the person might be charged with 12 years in prison for helping to distribute illegal material and promoting the organization. Even if the intent was only to inform the public and not get people to participate in terrorism. That is what is also dangerous about this law.
It opens up to wormholes like this and it depends on the powers at the ATC and the agencies of the Philippines to set it out and in order. The ideals are good, the steps are positives, we all should strive to combat and defeat terrorism, in all sorts and fashion. That is fine and dandy. However, this legislation is stretching things far and makes it possible to arrest someone on the hunch and on a limb. When, they might was just posting some random tweets or random Facebook posts. They were not doing it malice or with intent to incite terror, but it was from the wrong group. Therefore, they could get into trouble.
That is my worry here. Many parts of the law is reasonable and makes sense. As a sovereign and as a state, you want to have the ability to surveillance and to gather evidence of possible people who wants to commit these sorts of activities. However, when this law is make it so broad and gives huge powers to Council not made-up of intelligence officers nor law enforcement. That opens up the gates for possible political mind-games, where the political enemies becomes terrorists. Even if the only thing they do is to buy rice and flowers for the people of their Barangay.
I hope this get dealt with positively, but this is passing all parts of the Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate has all agreed upon the articles. It only need the Presidential signature and seal before becoming law. That is why the ATC and whose getting there is important. Because, they will become the Terrorist Hunters and the ones deciding the fate of people. They will be vital in this and have the last word in a way. Peace.
Oslo, 17th March 2019
Dear Sir, His Excellency Rodrigo Roa Duterte, the President of the Republic of Philippines.
I am writing today to you and yours for a very simple reason. Not that I have the answers, but I am seeking those. Because I am worried about you and your administration. Since, the act of withdrawal from the Rome Statute and leave the International Criminal Court (ICC) came to affect today.
A quick brief about the ICC and the Rome Statute: “The primary mission of the International Criminal Court is to help put an end to impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole, and thus to contribute to the prevention of such crimes” (…) “On 17 July 1998, a conference of 160 States established the first treaty-based permanent international criminal court. The treaty adopted during that conference is known as the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Among other things, it sets out the crimes falling within the jurisdiction of the ICC, the rules of procedure and the mechanisms for States to cooperate with the ICC” (…) “ The mandate of the Court is to try individuals (rather than States), and to hold such persons accountable for the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole, namely the crime of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression, when the conditions for the exercise of the Court’s jurisdiction over the latter are fulfilled” (ICC – Understanding the International Criminal Court).
The reason for writing this is very clear as an outsider, a man who follows the Republic and sometimes worried about the state of affairs. I’m writing to you President Duterte, because this is a serious gamble. Your risking more than just some mere donations or bilateral loans, you are risking more than that.
Mister President, your actually taking yourself out of institution, whose prosecuting for international crimes and crimes against humanity. Which is a very specific court, not just any tribunal. Why I am asking, because your administration accepted the verdict of another international court, which ordered a verdict in your favour. That was the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague on the 12th July 2016 [The South China Sea Arbitration (The Republic of the Philippines v. The People’s Republic of China)]. Therefore, the administration your running has accepted this and didn’t question the sovereign of this nor the laws it used for the ruling of this court.
If you as President are saying the ICC shouldn’t have any grounds of investigation you, than the same Republic and the same administration accept the verdict of another international court either. That is just an easy assessment, Mr. President.
As we are seeing the Republic leaves the ICC, could there be another reason for leaving it? Are you afraid of cases built up against you? Would you be afraid if they really investigated or looked into the anti-drug war? Are you afraid of what you did as Mayor of Davao?
I just got to ask. Since there has to be something, a reason why you are afraid of the ICC. If you had nothing to hide, if you had nothing to look into or questionable activity. You wouldn’t have revoked the Rome Statute and run away from the International Law?
I am really questioning it, since the same state had no issues accepting one International Court, but leaving another one. Are you leaving the laws and statutes of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague too? That would have been a bit fair, especially if your a supreme sovereign and not wanting any interference. This is a weird argument using against one, but accepting the other one.
I just had to ask. I don’t anticipate any answers, but the Filipino should get to know. Just not some PR Stunt and sample of the Withdrawal of the Rome Statute. There should be released an legal argument released to the public to read and with justified explanation. If not, we can wonder, if the you as a President is afraid of the ICC and what they could find.
I hope you could answer to that and also show grace. Not that I expect any, but as an outsider. This is just weird. No one is running away from something unless, they got something to hide. That is just ordinary fashion in these manners.
Writer of Minbane