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Posted on 18 May 2005 by admin
The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan opposes in the strongest terms the latest draft of the antiterrorism bill dated May 4, 2005 entitled AN ACT DEFINING TERRORISM, ESTABLISHING INSTITUTIONAL MECHANISMS TO PREVENT AND SUPPRESS ITS COMMISSION, PROVIDING PENALTIES THEREFORE AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES. In a time when civil liberties are threatened on all fronts, when state agents resort to labeling government critics as “enemies of the state”, and when the same critics are being killed or harassed, the Anti-Terrorism Bill poses another serious threat to civil liberties and human rights. This is one case where the purported cure is worse than the disease.
The proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill (ATB) will not solve the so-called problem of “terrorism”. Far from deterring “terror”, the bill will itself be an instrument that will inflict “terror” on the people. It is, as the Public Interest Law Center correctly described it, a legal monstrosity.
Our opposition is based on the following grounds:
1. The definition of terrorism (SEC 3), as in previous versions of the bill, remains dangerously broad, vague and sweeping. The ATB defines terrorism as the “premeditated, threatened, actual use of violence, force, or by any other means of destruction perpetrated against person/s, property/ies, or the environment, with the intention of creating or sowing a state of danger, panic, fear or chaos to the general public, group of persons or particular persons, or of coercing or intimidating the government to do or abstain from doing an act.”
The bill does not provide any clear, unambiguous parameters as to what constitutes a state of terror, danger, panic or fear. How does the definition of terrorism differ from plain banditry and other criminal activities that also employ violence and sow panic or fear? As far as the definition goes, anything that endangers or threatens anything or anyone can be construed as an act of terror.
The absence of clear definitions is dangerous. The potential for abuse is not unfounded. In a time when government labeling of “enemies of the state” has been committed with impunity – with critics of the administration being the first to be labeled—such an open-ended definition of terrorism can also be abused to include critics of government and may be used to stifle legitimate forms of dissent.
2. Not only is the definition of terrorism vague, it automatically excludes the concept of “state terrorism”. The proposed bill implies that terrorist acts are committed only by those outside government. While it states that the government is one of the targets of terrorist acts, it does not consider the possibility of the state committing acts of terrorism against the people. Such
a definition of state terrorism is necessary given the historical experience of the Filipino people under the Marcos fascist dictatorship. How does one consider well-documented cases of indiscriminate bombings, massacres, hamleting, and other forms of violence committed by the military and police against unarmed civilians?
3. The ATB is superfluous as it merely lists down crimes already punishable under the Revised Penal Code and embellishes these crimes with the definition of “terrorism”. Also, the parameters on how terrorism is committed (SEC 4) are also vague and can lead to possible abuses. For example, SEC.4.4 states that terrorism is committed when “threatening or causing interference with or serious disruption of an essential service, facility or system whether public or private, other than the result of lawful advocacy, protest, dissent or stoppage of work. (underscoring supplied)”
Does this mean that a strike can be deemed a terrorist act when said strike is declared unlawful? In the case of the Hacienda Luisita dispute which halted production at the sugar mill, the strike was declared illegal by the DOLE. Can this work stoppage be considered a “terrorist act”? In the case of the destruction of the environment, will the illegal loggers both large-scale and small-scale, be considered terrorists as well? Will a computer hacker who destroys a computer or defaces a government website be considered a terrorist? What about street protests that cause disruptions in the flow of traffic? Will these be considered acts of terror when these protests cease to be “lawful”?
The crime of “conspiracy or proposal to commit terrorism” is also very vague and broad. It penalizes people for contemplating or proposing what the state considers as acts of terror. Under this dangerous definition, a person can already be charged with a crime even without actually committing any offense.
Furthermore, under the vague definitions in SEC 7 of the proposed bill, mere personal association with “suspected terrorists” can also be construed as facilitating, contributing and promoting terrorism. One can become a criminal by mere association, even without actually committing any offense.
4. Legal definitions should be categorical and explicit to be effective. Unfortunately, the proposed bill encompasses virtually anyone engaged in any form of violence. This definition also does not distinguish for example between combatants and non-combatants in situations of armed conflict. It does not distinguish between civilian property or military property (military bases, detachments) as targets of terrorism.
It is not far-fetched to assume that the first casualty of the proposed bill would be members of revolutionary armed movements, like the CPP/NPA/NDF and the MILF. This would be contrary to established Philippine jurisprudence such as the Hernandez Doctrine, which states that all acts in pursuit of one’s political beliefs are absorbed in one crime of rebellion and cannot be divided into several common crimes.
Next to be likely tagged as terrorists are groups which state agents have already labeled as “front organizations”. These include legal and legitimate people’s organizations, which are already facing various forms of harassment under the present system.
It cannot be denied that according to international law and resolutions, international humanitarian law and conventions, the commentaries of numerous legal scholars as well as judicial doctrine pertaining to the matter, acts in pursuit of one’s political beliefs are considered legitimate, have legal recognition and cannot as such be regarded, much less penalized, as terrorism.
5. The proposed bill curtails civil liberties and other democratic rights and is a serious threat to human rights. It allows warrantless arrests, prolonged periods of detention without charges and the invasion of privacy by allowing wiretapping and other forms of electronic surveillance, all of which have heretofore been routinely abused by state agents. The ATB will thus institutionalize and legitimize such brazen violations of civil liberties and human rights.
6. The ATB is an attack on the right to organize and on freedom of association. An organization can be proscribed as terrorist by the Department of Justice if any member/s openly and publicly declares, admits and acknowledges to have committed any of the acts punishable under the proposed bill. All it takes are members (whether actual or not) who will admit that the organization is engaged in terrorism. In the past, government has been known to arbitrarily round up civilians in the barrios and present them as rebel surrenderees. There have also been cases wherein government presented false or recycled terror suspects. It would be fairly easy therefore to manufacture such means—come up with a few “members” who will admit to terrorism—to justify the terrorist labeling of any legitimate organization.
An organization can also be tagged as terrorist by the DOJ when any international organization lists it as such. This is in clear violation of Philippine sovereignty since international entities will be influencing our internal affairs through terrorist-listings.
What is most disturbing about the proposal for the proscription of so-called terrorist organizations is that the this section does not contain any provision on due process. The proscription of an organization is merely recommended by the Anti-Terrorism Council and implemented by the DOJ. Nowhere in the section does it say that the organization involved must be notified and given a chance to air its side. There is no defense for any proscribed organization, except for an appeal process, which naturally takes place after an organization has already been proscribed.
Furthermore, failure to terminate membership in the proscribed organization will be considered a crime. One becomes a terrorist even when one has not actually committed any offense, simply because one belongs to or has failed to terminate membership in a proscribed organization. This provision is down-right oppressive and once again violates due process and other constitutional guarantees and freedoms. This is a throwback to the time of the Anti-Subversion Law of Marcos wherein mere membership in the CPP is already considered a crime.
Government’s failure to address the problems of terrorism stems not from the absence of laws but from the government’s own incompetence and the historical collusion between state forces and those that have come to be known as “terrorist groups”. The bill would be among the many existing instruments of the state to violate people’s rights.
We urge our lawmakers to reject the proposed anti-terrorism bill.
RENATO M. REYES, JR.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan
Posted on 16 November 2004 by admin
1. The United Luisita Workers’ Union (ULWU) started the strike at 11 a.m. on Nov. 6, 2004, charging management had engaged in union busting or unfair labor practices, and had refused to bargain thereafter. Almost all of the 5,000-strong farmworkers’ union membership joined the strike, with their families and communities in outlying barrios supporting them.
2. The ULWU strike was not covered by the “AJ” or assumption of jurisdiction by the Labor Secretary. ULWU’s case is with the National Labor Relations Commission. If one will be strict about legality, the four dispersal operations ordered by DoLE at Gate 1 of the sugar mill, where the ULWU members were primarily manning the picket lines, is patently illegal since Secretary Sto. Tomas’ “AJ” does not cover the ULWU strike.
3. The Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU) struck at 3 p.m., the same day. When leaders of CATLU learned that management had caused all gates to be closed and that sugar mill workers would be locked in, they called for their members to strike as well. The CATLU was in a CBA deadlock with the management of the sugar mill. It did not take long for CATLU officials and the majority of its members to recognize that CATLU and ULWU had a better fighting chance by uniting their forces and striking together. About 700 sugar mill workers joined the strike while 80 chose to continue working.
4. On Nov. 6 and 7, without any return-to-work nor deputization order from DoLE, the police interfered in the labor dispute. Instead of following the law and keeping themselves at least 50 meters away from the picket line, the PNP undertook a premeditated attack to break up the strike using teargas, water cannon, and truncheons. The workers defended themselves with sticks and stones. Many were hurt in the ensuing melee.
5. On Nov. 10, Ms. Sto. Tomas issued an “assumption of jurisdiction” order citing that the Cojuangcos’ hacienda and sugar mill were “vital” to the national interest. On Nov. 12, Labor Undersecretary Manuel Imson formally asked the police to “ensure ingress and egress from the company premises.”
6. In fact, ingress and egress were assured. There was no need to force open Gate 1 leading to the sugar mill because by Nov. 15, Gates 3 and 6 were very much open. Proof of this was that the vehicles of management as well as those of the police and military, later to include two armed personnel carriers (APCs) and four fire trucks, were free to go in and out of the hacienda. Sr. Supt. Angel Sunglao, Tarlac police chief, admitted as much in the House of Representatives hearings by the Committee on Human rights held to investigate the massacre.
7. The real purpose of the forcible opening of the padlocked Gate 1 (which management itself had closed) was to disperse the rallyists and destroy the picket line that had been serving as the most visible rallying point and symbol of the workers’ struggle. There was no need to deploy the police to disrupt an otherwise peaceful work stoppage and legitimate protest action of the workers.
8. To make matters worse, on Nov. 15, Sec. Sto Tomas deputized not only the police but also the military to enforce her order, an act seriously questioned by senators and human rights lawyers as unlawful, a blatant violation of the constitutional provision that states only the President or Commander-in-Chief can call out the troops to quell a riot or rebellion. The involvement of the military who are not trained to deal with civilian disturbances arising out of demonstrations or strikes was deemed directly contributory to the carnage that ensued, with the authorities utilizing disproportionate and far superior force on the unarmed strikers.
9. On Nov. 15, 10 a.m., around 400 policemen again attempted to disperse around 4,000 strikers assembled at the picket line in front of Gate 1. Again, scores sustained injuries. The president of CATLU was hit on the head by rocks hurled from the ranks of the police, lost consciousness and sustained a gaping head wound. Despite this, the strikers stood their ground and the police were forced to retreat.
10. Bayan Muna party-list representatives Satur Ocampo and Teddy Casiño arrived at the scene and held dialogues with the police. They frantically tried to reach Ms. Sto. Tomas and former Rep. Peping Cojuangco to ask them to hold off any orders for the police to use force once more since entire families of the workers were at the picket line and stood to get hurt. Sec. Sto. Tomas’ cell phone was mysteriously cut off and became busy thereafter. Mr. Ocampo thus failed to reach her.
11. The following day, the morning of Nov. 16, Mr. Cojuangco met with Mr. Ocampo and CATLU officials at his Dasmarinas Village residence while refusing to allow ULWU officials in. (This was consistent with the stance of management that these ULWU officials were already dismissed from the company and could no longer represent the union of farm workers.)
12. The dialogue never got off the ground with Mr. Cojuangco insisting that the only time management would talk with CATLU was when they lifted their strike. Mr. Cojuangco was quoted as saying, “Bahala na ang DoLE d’yan.”
13. One thing emerges from all the moves of the Hacienda Luisita management and the Arroyo government prior to the Nov. 16 massacre. A high-level decision had been made to break the strike of the farm and sugar mill workers, without negotiations, using as legal cover the assumption of jurisdiction of Sec. Sto. Tomas and her subsequent return-to-work order. The police and even the military were “deputized” to do the dirty work of implementing the DoLE order by brute force.
14. The strikers, with their community support from barrios inside the hacienda, plus sympathizers from militant mass organizations, local government officials, party-list congresspersons and various groups from the middle forces, had already proven in three previous violent dispersals that they had the numbers, the determination and the broad support to defend the picket line from the assaults of the police.
15. So the military was called in. Aside from around 700 policemen, there were 17 truckloads of soldiers in full battle gear, and two tanks equipped with heavy weapons, a pay loader and four fire trucks with water cannons. They had hundreds of tear gas canisters. There were snipers positioned in at least five strategic places in front of and at the sides of the “oval,” the open area in front of Gate 1 where the strikers and rallyists were massed up.
16. Water cannons blasted the strikers and their supporters with chemical-laced water that stung their eyes and skin and initially forced them back from the front lines facing Gate1. But after they had washed away the stinging fluid, the strikers returned.
17. Hundreds of tear gas canisters were then hurled at them. This tactic was more effective in dispersing the crowd; smoke permeated the grounds and the sound of coughing, gagging and cries for water filled the air. In due time, however, a few intrepid strikers learned to smother the tear gas by either dowsing the canisters with water or burying these in the sandy soil of the oval.
18. The pay loader and the tank (“armed personnel carrier”) were then used to smash open Gate 1, the same gate management had earlier padlocked. After the third attempt, the tank succeeded but the strikers threw stones at it and forced the tank to pull back.
19. In jubilation that they had been victorious in causing the tank to retreat, scores of strikers rushed through Gate 1 towards the fire trucks brandishing their bamboo sticks and throwing everything they could get their hands on, even an LPG tank, at the assaulting tank.
20. Then a volley of gunfire rained down on the protesters. It lasted for a minute, followed by more sporadic shooting. Everyone scampered away from where the gunfire was coming from, away from where the police and military were positioned, behind Gate 1, inside the compound of the sugar mill.
21. Two of the victims who later died were shot while they attempted to clamber up a fire truck. One was shot a few meters from the perimeter fence adjacent to the gate. Two were found dead in the creek about three meters away from the barbed wire at the left side of Gate 1. Another was fatally wounded while running away from the gate with his father and the last victim was hit while running across the oval.
22. The two union presidents were chased by snipers’ bullets while they were running towards the sugarcane trucks parked about 130 meters from the gate.
23. The doctor who had autopsied four of the seven fatalities noted that based on the wounds sustained, the trajectory of the bullets indicated that the victims were running or in a crouching or prone position when they were shot. They were not in a position meant for attack. A medical team who saw many of the wounded sustained the observation of the doctor who had done the autopsies.
24. Arrested strikers, many of them suffering from gunshot wounds, testified that they were hit with rifle butts and truncheons, kicked with combat boots, manhandled and hurled into waiting army trucks by police and soldiers who bore no nameplates. Some even verbally abused their victims, castigating them for resisting the dispersal and standing their ground. Investigators attempted to lure the detained workers into incriminating themselves by demanding that they confess their “aliases.”
25. More evidence of collusion and premeditation between management and the AFP/PNP came up as the investigation uncovered the fact that an Army medical team was dispatched to the St. Martin de Porres Hospital, the Cojuangco-owned private hospital adjacent to the sugar mill, more than half an hour prior to the start of the violent dispersal on Nov. 16. Moreover, all the remaining in-patients were discharged. By 8 p.m., all the hospital personnel, including the doctors and nurses who had attended to the dying and wounded patients, were all told to go home. The hospital remained under tight military and police control up to the following day.
26. The three dead workers who the police said were positive for gunpowder burns were in the custody of the military and/or police for several hours when no relative was present or gave any permission for such tests to be made. The finding that they were positive for gunpowder burns was based purely on the say-so of those same police and military suspected to have perpetrated the massacre.
Not a single policeman or soldier sustained any gunshot wound. Nine were reported by the PNP to the media as testing positive for gunpowder burns, namely, Sr. Supt. Sabino Vengco and PO1 Christopher Villanueva of PNP-Bataan; PO1 Noriel Marcelo, PO1 Micahel Santiago and PO1 Joselito Ramos of PNP-Nueva Ecija; PO1 Joniie Francia, PO1 Venancio Asuncion, Jr. and PO1 Irwin Monreal of PNP-Aurora; and PO2 Noel Velasco of PNP Regional Mobile Group 3.