Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, the principal sponsor of the controversial Human Security Act, has a long history of making political and legal moves running counter to civil liberties and other democratic rights, and even of direct association with the forces of authoritarianism.
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Vol. VII, No. 24, July 22-28, 2007
The Human Security Act of 2007 (HSA), also known as the Anti-Terorrism Law, will probably go down in the annals of Philippine politics as one of the most controversial laws passed in this decade – if not in this century. Its principal sponsor is Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile.
Under the HSA, the elements of terrorism are: commission of the crimes of rebellion or insurrection, coup d’ etat, murder, arson, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, crimes involving destruction, arson, piracy and highway robbery among others, “thereby sowing and creating a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace, in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand.”
The acts of armed political groups like the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), and the Magdalo may be classified by the government as falling under rebellion or insurrection, in the case of the CPP-NPA; or coup d’ etat, in the case of the Magdalo. These groups run the risk of being proscribed as “terrorist” groups under the HSA – especially considering that the Arroyo regime lobbied for the inclusion of the CPP-NPA and CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison in the U.S. Department of State’s “terrorist” list.
There is, however, nothing in the HSA that prevents unarmed and legal cause-oriented or opposition groups like the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) and the United Opposition (UNO) from being accused of fronting for “communist” or “rebel military” organizations – as the Arroyo administration has repeatedly done. Likewise there is nothing in the said law that prevents journalists covering “insurgency” or even legal mass actions from being accused of “conspiracy to commit terrorism.”
The HSA legalizes the warrantless arrest and prolonged detention of people just suspected – not even caught in the act – of committing “terrorism” or “conspiring to commit terrorism” as defined in the said law.
With that, the HSA creates openings for its use by the government in cracking down even on the legal protest movement.
Passed in February this year and having taken effect last July 13, the HSA is principally authored by Sen. Manuel Villar. Co-authors of the law are Sens. Panfilo Lacson, Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon Magsaysay Jr., and Joker Arroyo.
The man mainly responsible for propelling what was previously known as Senate Bill No. 2137 to passage was Enrile, who chaired the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights in the 13th Congress.
Enrile authored the first Anti-Terrorism Bill filed in Congress in 1996 – five years before the word “terrorism” became an international household word following the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City and U.S. President George W. Bush’s subsequent declaration of a “borderless war on terror.”