1987 Constitution framers oppose anti-terror law

The framers of the 1987 Constitution that enshrines Bill of Rights joined the still growing opposition to the anti-terrorism law that, they warned, takes the Philippines back to the 1970s.

The Philippines needs to “move forward, not backwards,” the framers said in a statement signed by Felicitas Arroyo, Teodoro Bacani, Florangel Rosario Braid, Edmundo Garcia, Jose Luis Gascon, Christian Monsod and Bernardo Villegas.

“The Charter was drafted and popularly approved in a plebiscite in the aftermath of one of the darkest chapters in our history when the rule of law was violated with impunity,” they said.

The present Charter carries with it the hopes of the people for protection against abuses of the State and stands to protect the people’s right by limiting the extraordinary powers of the State, they said. The Constitution no longer carries the feared Arrest, Search and Seizure Orders (ASSO) of martial law, used by the regime of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. to round up government dissenters.

But with the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) in RA 11479, “we may be unwitting witnesses to a return to a past of unwelcome experiences,” the framers said.

Under the law, the ATC—composed of Cabinet officials, some of whom have history of red-tagging— may “designate” a person or a group as suspected terrorist. They can also allow law enforcers to detain the person for up to 24 days without judicial charge. The framers noted that the law also does not give the accused an opportunity for defense in a hearing.

“Those who differ will be branded as recalcitrants and their silencing would have a deceptive justification,” they said.

“This law precisely creates a climate of fear, sends a chilling effect, on those who wish to express their legitimate grievances, state their aspirations, and wish to engage in open and democratic debate, and threatens the rights of associations who may wish to dissent and question the actuations of those in power,” the framers added.

These are among the contentions that petitioners as they challenged the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 before the highest court in the country.

On the first working day since President Rodrigo Duterte signed the contentious anti-terrorism law, four petitions have been filed at the Supreme Court. More legal challenges are expected to be filed when the law takes effect.

The framers also said: “The Anti-Terrorism Act gives unprecedented powers to the administration. And we may already be on a slippery slope to authoritarianism.”

“The life of the law has not been logic, it has been experience,” they noted, adding that they have experienced authoritarianism “[breeding] little dictators in local government units and in enforcement agencies, with the poor bearing the worst abuses at the ground level.”

The framers stressed that in assessing the new anti-terror law, its content and context must be scrutinized. This divisive legislation comes at a time when the Philippines has a “weakened system of checks and balances... [and] poor record in exacting accountability from those tasked to implement our laws,” they added.

“We, Framers believe that we do not need another law against terrorism at this time when in fact we have sufficient laws that can thwart terrorists and acts of terrorism,” they also said. (via Philstar) Read more: facebook.com/DailyGuardianPH/photos/a.1043193922367239/3491878500832090.