CHR lawyer says anti-terror law presumes the innocent is criminal

“The definition of terrorism under this law is very broad that it almost covers all crimes  under the Revised Penal Law,” said Ursua, one of five reactors.

“Arrest without warrant contravenes the constitutional guarantee that no person shall be arrested without valid arrest warrants from the court,” he said.

Ursua pointed that there are only three countries which have legislated laws relating to terrorism. “These are superpowers United States of America, United Kingdom and a country pretending to be a superpower, Philippines.”

Daniel Conejar, Mindanao coordinator of Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) explained to participants the substantial details of the law and the corresponding penalties that would be imposed against suspects.

The Human Security Act or RA 9372, an act to secure the state and protect the people from terrorism, is a consolidation of Senate Bill No. 2137 and House Bill No. 4839 passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives on February 8, 2007 and February 19, 2007. It was signed into law on March 6, 2007 by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Conejar warned the law could trigger more human rights violations. “The law could be used for surveillance of suspected members of a rebel group and be a tool to suppress the people’s voice against raging community-based issues,” said Conejar.

Demy Plando, a human rights lawyer, also commented that the enforcement of these laws might disregard legal procedures and might not be able to protect suspects against torture at the time of investigation.

Said Sheik, a member of the provincial local monitoring team (LMT) of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel, said the people “must work hard and pray for God’s guidance because terrorism as a global issue is done by opportunists who have access to sophisticated weaponry.”

“The Moro people are suffering the effects of trauma from wars and from martial law… we still need to know and study how we should react on this matter,” Sheik said.

Mila Arienza, executive director of Research, Communication for Justice and Peace (RCJP), commented that “the law will inevitably sideline our human rights. We used to have total war policy and low intensity conflicts from previous administrations… this law is  just another face of it.”

Arienza feared that the right to peaceful assemblies and expression will be curtailed and advocates for peace and development might be persecuted.

“Let’s not forget that terror is done by movements supported by agents who have access to armaments,” Arienza added.

Some 60 participants attended the forum which was organized by Ranaw Disaster Response, Rehabilitation Assistance Center  in partnership with Volunteer Service Overseas  and Lanao Alliance of Human Rights Advocates. (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)