Upon the signing of the Anti-Terror Act by Gloria M. Arroyo, the reactionary military and forces and their special operations teams and death squads are further licensed and further emboldened to commit acts of state terrorism. The main objective of the Act is to suppress the people’s movement for national liberation and democracy and the broad range of legal forces criticizing and opposing the regime. If the targets of the act were only such small groups like the supposedly Al Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf and Jema’ah Islamiyah, the existing system of security agencies and criminal law on murder would have sufficed.
The Arroyo regime is inspired by the malevolent example of Bush in using the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center as pretext for carrying out wars of aggression and pushing fascist acts of legislation and executive fiats on a global scale in the name of anti-terrorism. It is ironic that while the Bush global war of terror is beginning to unravel in the US, Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the world the Philippine puppet authorities rush to produce the Anti-Terror Act. This is calculated to please the Bush regime and serve the selfish political interest of the Arroyo ruling clique.
The term “terrorism” is an old political cussword, an emotionally loaded word of witchhunt for attacking the freedom of thought and belief or for inciting hatred of certain racial or ethnic characteristics. Now, it is passed off as a legal term, with all its vagueness and broadness, to override the clear and well-defined differences between common crimes and political offenses. It is a catch-all term of vilification.
The easily acknowledged targets of proscription are now the Abu Sayyaf and the Jema’ah Islamiyah. But the Arroyo regime is already spreading the word that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front can be similarly proscribed if it does not capitulate. Proscription is extendible to other Moro organizations and people who stand for the right of the Moro people to self-determination and ancestral domain. The Arroyo regime is now hell-bent on proscribing the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army and the NDFP chief political consultant and making a list of “terrorists” in line with the previous designation of the same entities as “terrorist” by the US. The NDFP is also being threatened with “terrorist” listing if it does not capitulate.
After the proscription of the CPP and the NPA as “terrorists”, it would be easy for the Arroyo regime to proscribe other parties and organizations as “terrorists” collaborating and conspiring to commit “terrorism”. The Arroyo regime has demonstrated its viciousness in fabricating criminal charges against the broad united front of opposition forces. In this connection, the legal patriotic and progressive mass organizations and the legal opposition parties are vulnerable to proscription.
It would also be easy to arrest and detain indefinitely individuals as officers and members of “terrorist” organizations or as accomplices and accessories in the commission of “terrorism”. If a member of an already proscribed organization, an individual can be easily subjected to rigorous surveillance and punitive sanctions. These make the Anti-Terror Act a bill of attainder, which criminalizes and punishes individuals on the basis of guilt by association.
Any party or organization or individual can be proscribed as “terrorist” upon the decision of the implementing agency, the Anti-Terrorism-Council, on the basis of intelligence reports and recommendations by the military and police. The council is composed of the executive secretary, secretaries of justice, interior and local government, national defense, foreign affairs, and finance and the national security adviser. The National Intelligence Coordinating Agency serves as the council’s secretariat. It is merely pro forma for the secretary of justice to get from a regional trial court an ex parte ruling for the proscription. The target of proscription has no chance to look at and contest the intelligence dossiers used against him or her.
As a matter of course, the reactionary military, police and paramilitary forces can arrest and detain anyone whom they regard or suspect as a “terrorist”. The time limit for detention without charges is supposed to be 72 hours. But this is more than enough time to torture a confession out of the detainee and detain him or her indefinitely on the nonbailable charge of terrorism (maximum penalty is reclusion perpetua of 40 years). There is also enough time to remove all traces of the arrest and make the detainee disappear permanently. This is not a farfetched possibility under the prevailing conditions of continuing human rights violations with impunity and the stigmatization and suppression of patriotic and progressive organizations and individuals as “terrorists”.
The malicious intent of the Anti-Terror Act is to unleash state terrorism with impunity and create a climate of fear without the need of any proclamation to declare martial law. The objective is to intimidate and suppress not only the revolutionary organizations and movement of the people but also the opposition, dissenters and the independent media within the system. Thus, the Anti-Terror Act provides for the easy proscription of organizations and individuals, the widespread use of the 72-hour detention limit to torture and even murder a detainee, indefinite detention on the nonbailable charge of terrorism, the freezing and confiscation of financial assets, the easy incrimination of so-called accomplices and accessories, the unlimited intrusions of surveillance into privacy and family life, the oppressive restraints even on those released on bail, and so on.
As well-proven by the ultimate failure of the 14-year Marcos fascist dictatorship, the Arroyo regime will ultimately fall in disgrace by using the Anti-Terror Act to terrorize the people. For a while, the draconian regime can do a lot of repression and harm to the people. But unwittingly it incites and drives the broad masses of the people and the revolutionary forces to wage the armed revolution for national liberation, democracy and justice more fiercely than ever before. Many political activists and people who would otherwise stay in the legal political struggle are pushed by the regime to join the armed revolution and seek justice for wrongs done to them.
Whether the NDFP is proscribed by the Arroyo regime as “terrorist” or not, it will find negotiations impossible with the reactionary Philippine government after the proscription of the CPP and NPA as “terrorist”. The negotiating panelists, consultants and other related personnel and volunteers who are not necessarily members of any organization of the NDFP will have to undertake legal prudence and safeguards against the allegation of being “terrorists” in the Philippines and the host countries where they are. The treachery of the Arroyo regime is well-proven by its arbitrary suspension of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees and the abduction and murder of a considerable number of NDFP consultants and other personnel in the peace negotiations with the reactionary government.
The CPP, NPA and NDFP are confronted with the vow of the Arroyo regime to destroy the people’s revolutionary movement for national liberation and democracy or to render it strategically inconsequential before 2010. It is therefore understandable why the Filipino people and revolutionary forces are raising the level of their own strength and capabilities for greater struggles for the purpose eradicating not only the Arroyo regime but the entire ruling system of big compradors and landlords who are beholden to US imperialism.