TURNING POINT: Making and Defeating Terrorists

NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 9 June) – Otherwise legitimate and peaceful, the early days of protest of the people of conscience over the brutal killing of George Floyd in the hands of police officers was taken advantage by a few lawbreakers that erupted in riots and looting in some US states. The protesters were blamed for the chaos and disorder as the lawbreakers appeared to come from their rank, especially in those vigil nighttime marches and rallies.

How would this situation import in the incoming anti-terror law of the Philippines?

The violence and destruction of government properties is terrorism plain and simple. There is no need for assessment to find the actual offenders; the suspects – the protesters and organizers responsible for the event that caused a breach of public safety are terrorists.

Under the proposed terror law, a suspect – a person or group, designated by an anti-terror council as terrorist can be “legally” detained for 14 days, already like a penalized criminal upon the council’s order or its arm. Uncanny 14 days of coronavirus duration of isolation. What would stop them from extending the lockdown of what they may still consider a positive suspect?

Supporters of this terror law are quick in saying that the law is addressed to terrorists; if you are not one you have nothing to fear. Really, when a mere suspect is already treated a criminal? When you can be a suspect by association, assumption or derivation from what you think, say and write, and you can be isolated from society without due process?

Does the terror law address the real and proven terrorists in the fastness of Sulu and Basilan? The focus should be here, in developing new methods and strategies to eliminate these despicable criminals who continue to disturb the peace of civilian communities and inflict serious damage to and humiliate the state security forces. Fighting terrorist guerillas via conventional warfare is mindless, should stop and find alternatives.

But to look for terrorists elsewhere, far far away from current actual battlefields, and make terrorists out of mere suspects by designation and depriving them of their basic rights is like inventing terrorists and defeating them in the battlefield of choice and convenience of state law enforcers. This is not only very cheap escapism but terrorism itself: grand state terrorism.

The legislation insidiously undermines our democratic space as it would extend, if not institutionalize, the current pandemic garrison mode of governance of fear, complete obedience and submission to authorities which is a convenient way to entrench in power an authoritarian regime.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines.)