Today was going to be all about me. Where Are the Freedom Parks of Philippine Democracy? is my Arab News column for this week. Leon Kilat publishes my answers to his questions on blogging.
But someone called me up, frantically telling me to turn on ANC, and it turns out the President is holding some sort of talk show with her parliament-in-waiting, the members of the House of Representatives.
They’re discussing, as of this moment (2:17 p.m.), the Anti-Terrorism Bill. Rep. Teddy Locsin says the chairmen of the committees involved have made sure that civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution have been protected by limiting the period during which people accused of terrorism can be detained without charges to 3 days; the President and the PNP point to much longer allowable periods (the President mentioned “in Malaysia it’s 28 days!”; the PNP says their position is “15 days”; the other congressmen aren’t pleased; Locsin replied the aim should be to increase authority to conduct surveillance, since it’s more important to prevent acts of terrorism than to punish terrorists after the fact, and longer detention periods can be permitted for foreigners, who don’t enjoy the rights absolutely guaranteed Filipinos. Cuenco says no, longer detention periods for everybody! Congressmen start debating in front of the President.
The President, curtly: “Ano ang parusa?”. What’s the punishment, for acts of terrorism. More answers. More soothing statements from congressmen about respecting human rights; the President asks General Senga to confirm that the armed forces are aware of human rights; Gen. Senga says soothing things about “modules” the soldiers undergo concerning human rights. Locsin adds we should give credit to our intelligence operatives who, after all, were the ones who caught the first World Trade Center bombers.
Rep. Libanan brings up the need to fight “cyberterrorism.” Rep. Cuenco says something should be done about “chemical warfare.” Rep. Roquito Ablan goes back to needing to detain people longer than three days.
President: They say the recent Bali bombers trained in the Philippines.
Lumibao: Two years ago, M’am.
Gen. Defensor (ret.) They train everywhere!
Locsin: Where do these reports come from? Is the Philippines the place to study terrorist methods?
Gen. Defensor (ret.): They foreigners don’t understand we’re fighting insurgency, they think we have big camps, when a small room could be a training camp…
Locsin: I really wonder how they can think they’re training terrorists here when the countryside is crawling with soldiers fighting insurgency…
President: And, especially now, when we are intensively fighting terrorism! (Translation: “Go, me!”)
(The administration is obviously unimpressed by today’s Inquirer editorial and with Maria Ressa, her book, and recent reports).
Roquito Ablan: Mumble, mumble, mumble…
It seems the congressmen agree more amendments are needed; Cuenco says you have to worry about the time it takes to get information on someone you arrested in Manila, from, say, Pakistan, which would take more than three days…
President: Who will head fight against terrorism? Right now it’s General Defensor heading the task force… (not clear what the answer is).
Locsin: The emphasis should be on prevention. If we suffer a 9-11, our society might not survive it.
More general mumbling; (I didn’t quote other congressmen whose names I don’t know or faces I failed to recognize) President puts on her best Minnie Mouse smile and congratulates everyone, both the House and the Senate(!) for their excellent, inspiring, efficient, and relevant work, etc., etc. Show ends at 2:34. Usual suspects object to the law, ANC reports say.
Tee-hee of the Day: Bro. Eddie Villanueva apparently held a press conference saying the President proposed “eight considerations,” including killing the case now given CPR and revived for use against him, if he desisted from running for president. Such, anyway, said Bro. Eddie, was the message conveyed “by the feeler from Malacanang!”. Did he mean fellah, feller, or you know, did he mean the Palace sent feelers (and by now we know what both sides feel about it)?