SENATE APPROVED ANTI-TERROR BILL: NOT WATERED DOWN BUT MORE DRACONIAN THAN THE HOUSE VERSION
District Representatives asked to Declare No Vote During the Election
CODAL wishes to correct members of the Senate who contend that their version of the anti-terrorism bill is watered down. In this instance, the authors of the House version could not outdo Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile in crafting a bill intended to terrorize legitimate dissenters. The claim by opposition Senators that they managed to water down the bill, to justify their approval of the same, is an illusory and untruthful statement. CODAL commends Sen. Jamby Madrigal and Sen. Mar Roxas, the only two senators who voted against the bill for maintaining their principled position despite the absence of support even from pretend human rights advocates like Sen. Joker Arroyo.
The Senate Bill is draconian because it contain the following provisions that are not found in the House version, and in fact, have never been found in Philippine legal history:
I. Under Sec. 26, it allows for House Arrest despite the posting of bail, prohibition of the right to travel and the right to communicate with others
Sec. 26 Restriction on the Right to Travel—In cases where evidence of guilt is not strong, and the person charged is …granted... bail, the court shall …limit the right of travel of the accused to within the municipality or city where he resides. He or she may also be placed under house arrest by order of the court… While under house arrest, he or she may not use telephones, cell phones, emails, computers, the internet or other means of communications with people outside his residence until otherwise ordered by the court.
Considering that the evidence of guilt is not strong, Section 26 violates the suspects constitutional right to travel guaranteed under Section 6, Art. III of the Constitution when it prohibited the travel of a suspect outside his place of residence absent a court order. It also violates Sec. 13, Art. III which grants bail as a right to “ALL persons, when evidence of guilt is not strong” when it allows the house arrest of that person despite posting bail. Worse, it prohibits that ‘suspect’ from communicating through “cell phones, emails, computers, the internet with people outside his residence” a form of incommunicado detention outlawed under Sec. 12 (2) Art. III of the Constitution. This provision virtually punishes a mere suspect even if that suspecte has not been convicted—a draconian provision that tramples on the constitutional presumption of innocence and the right to due process enshrined under Sec. 1 and 14 (2) Art. III of the
Constitution. This not only surpasses the House version, but any law passed even by Pres. Ferdinand Marcos during martial law. Sen. Enrile, with the support of opposition senators, certainly outdid himself in crafting this law.
II. Provides for Indefinite Detention upon orders of an official who is not part of the judiciary
A deeper scrutiny of Section 19 of the Senate Bill shows that indefinite detention is allowed upon the mere approval of a mere municipal official, among others:
Sec. 19—In the event of an actual or imminent terrorist attack, suspects may not be detained for more than three days without the written approval of a municipal, city, provincial or regional official of a human rights commission or judge of the municipal. . .
Section 19 actually states that a suspect may be detained for more than three days provided a municipal officer, inter alia, of an amorphous ‘commission on human rights’ approves. An ‘official’ who does not have the judicial authority to order the arrest of a person, is empowered by the Senate to order his detention for more than three days, a blatant violation of many provisions under Article III of the Constitution. Worse, that suspect, who is not even judicially charged as an accused, may be detained for more than three days, a clear violation of the Sec. 18, Article VII of the Constitution which provides that “During the suspension of the privilege of the writ, any person thus arrested or detained shall be judicially charged within three days, otherwise he shall be released.”
Demand Rejection of ATB During the Campaign Period
The Senate bill contains more repressive provisions on surveillance, opening and freezing of accounts, and other threats on civil liberties which may be used by the executive to persecute dissenters. The above provisions are not only constitutionally infirm but are even violative international human rights law and the principles of international criminal law, which makes the Senate version worse than the House bill, or any other law in Philippine legal history. Attacks against civilians by the likes of Al Qaeda. JI and the Abu Sayyaf are condemnable and must be dealt with decisively. However, the current anti-terror bill will not curtail attacks from these groups and may even inspire more attacks once abused by the executive and the military. The bill, even as it will not strike fear on the ‘terrorists’, will certainly be used to terrorize the opposition. Pres. Arroyo has shown her penchant to misuse laws against her detractors as shown by our experience under EO 464, the CPR policy and Proclamation 1017.
The credibility of the Senate and almost all senators on human rights issues are now tainted if not completely destroyed. CODAL asks members of the legal profession and human rights advocates to launch a campaign for the rejection of the resulting bill once it is again by a lame duck House of Representatives in June. The people must require their district representatives during this election to declare that they will vote no on the anti-terror bill once it is presented in the House for ratification. This is one rare instance when the people must assert a clear position on a national issue from local politicians in a local election. Since the Senate failed to protect the people from this draconian anti-terror bill, it is now up to the people themselves to directly act to force the rejection of the bill.
Reference Person: Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares
Date: February 9, 2007