On the frontline of this proposal, which many believe is an ill-disguised draconian measure against critics of this administration, are police and military higher-ups. They were candid in their admission that it will be used in the fight against insurgency and
terrorism, a categorical statement that should make our lawmakers think twice – even thrice – before deciding whether it should enter the statute books.
If only to assuage fears the plan would be used for less than benign purposes, the proponents said the ID will help speed up transactions with government agencies. But given the nature of their job as guardians of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s “Strong Republic,” it is doubtful whether the real interest of General Hermogenes Esperon et al lies in helping citizens reduce the amount of time spent queuing at government offices. How sweet of them.
Skeptics and cynics cannot be faulted for eyeing the national ID system proposal with apprehension. They have in mind the implications of its being employed as a counterinsurgency or anti-terrorism measure. The Philippine police and military are known for everything but high regard for due process and respect for the rights of civilians suspected of wrongdoing.
Their contempt for civilized behavior as security forces multiplies a dozen times whenever the suspects are militants. Never mind the human rights groups and the Philip Alstons who cry foul.
And how will the ID system work against terrorists and rebels? Or more to the point, how will the police and military use it against suspected enemies of the state? One likely scenario is for the police to round up whole neighborhoods (usually in slum areas), ask for IDs and haul to precincts – or God knows where – those who do not have any.
It escapes logic why possessing a national ID should be made an instrument in identifying good citizens from the bad. An ID attests to a person’s identity, and that is where its practical usefulness begins and ends. It cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be a mirror of true behavior or character. It cannot and should not be made a yardstick of loyalty to government, be it a legitimate government or one placed in power by illegal telephone conversations.
Furthermore, it is not a shield against abuse. Why, activists may submit to the ID system once it becomes a law. But will it change the military’s bias against them? Will it make them less prone to killings or harassment?
Your turn to speak, General, Sir. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno received in 1987 the Jose W. Diokno Award for winning in a national editorial writing contest sponsored by Ang Pahayagang Malaya and the family of the late senator.)