The armed forces are irked by comments by a UN human rights official. Palace says it will relent and release the Melo report. Ernesto Hilario thinks the UN official’s pressure may be cause for hope for human rights advocates.
Despite an attempt by Philippine Commentary to propose a definition of terrorism, the fact remains that we are about to enter an era in which legislation defines terrorism in terms of existing crimes- piracy or mutiny on the high seas; rebellion or insurrection; coup d’etat (“including acts committed by private persons”); murder; kidnapping; “crimes involving destruction”; arson; toxic or nuclear waste transport violations; hi-jacking; highway robbery; illegal trade, manufacture, or possession of firearms or explosives; -and perpetrating those crimes to engage in terrorism, which the law defines as:
[the above acts and the commission of which] “thereby sowing and creating a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace, in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand shall be guilty of the crime of terrorism.”
Any group can be declared a terrorist organization if it is organized for the purpose of conducting terrorism, or which “although not organized for that purpose, actually uses the acts to terrorize mentioned in this Act or to sow and create a condition of widespread extraordinary fear and panic among the populace in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand.” This could range, depending on those wanting to enforce it, on anything ranging from wearing a t-shirt, to a strike, a protest, a rally, a religious gathering, etc., etc., etc.
In other words, terrorism itself is not clearly defined: or to be precise, it is designed in terms of a convenience -it gives to the executive branch of government a breadth of discretion no executive should be given on such a scale for something so unclear as “widespread and extraordinary fear and panic” for “unlawful demands”.
More useful to my mind, would have been the creation of some sort of mechanism, perhaps a special Anti Terror Tribunal, to authorize either the thwarting of a terrorist conspiracy in progress, or to apprehend and punish the perpetrators on a case to case basis.
Let us assume that terrorism is like smut. As an American supreme court justice famously put it, “I couldn’t define pornography for you but I know it when I see it.” Could a law to prevent 911 have been crafted? Only after the fact; and to punish its perpetrators and prevent a similar atrocity.
Therefore: if there is a valid case to clamp down on those involved in a terrorist conspiracy, why not a special tribunal that would use some sort of judicial benchmarks, instead of what is the equivalent of a carte blanche for the executive branch? If it is to punish an act, let it begin with an official consensus on an act being a case of terrorism. Let the chief executive transmit to Congress a request for a joint resolution stating an act was terrorism, and authorizing the security and armed forces to utilize the law for an identified target. Surely public opinion would then have a chance to either temper or validate such a call.
Instead, what the law sets up is a new cabinet cluster to handle the application of the law: composed of the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of National Defense, the National Security Adviser, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, and the Secretary of Finance.
Most of all, as I advocated some time back, the law does not carry in it any expiration date, which would require a review of the law prior to its reenactment. See the mechanisms involved in Canada’s Anti Terrorism Act. The handling of terrorism-related investigations has caused a political ruckus in Canada, and a furious debate which serves as a cautionary tale. This law is the tail end of our pandering puppy like devotion to Bush’s War on Terror just when the rest of the world is debating whether the whole thing has created more problems than it tried to address.
Here is the text of the anti terrorism act. It’s from the PCIJ blog. Whoever their source was left interesting marginal notes on their copy of the bill.
Incidentally, a law of this magnitude was arrived at with very few opportunities for the public to find out what was under discussion or what was even approved. The websites of both chambers of Congress have not published the proposed bills or amendments in a timely fashion; there is no way of finding out exactly who voted for or against; when the law is signed, it will be published in the newspapers (at several hundred thousand pesos per publication, which makes the papers happy, and allows Congress to play favorites by deciding where to make placements) but no useful, accessible record will be created. The Official Gazette remains off line, it is not updated properly, it is not distributed widely, it cannot be referenced conveniently.
My column for today is An Assessment, it reprints an article commissioned by Katipunan Magazine.
Finally, I’d like to share some thoughts, for discussion, on the economy as it actually is, and how it could be, from an economist, Filomeno Sta. Ana III, of the Action for Economic Reforms (emphasis added is mine):
To achieve sustainable, equitable growth, the economy must grow above 6.5 percent over the long term (20-25 years), as the examples of successful high-growth countries like China, Vietnam and India show.
And such growth comes from sustained investments, which likewise create jobs.
Present growth is below six percent. It is mainly driven by consumption, thanks to OFW remittances. (The OFW phenomenon, to be sure is a symptom of a larger problem – that our economy can’t provide quality jobs to the labor force.) Consumption-led growth cannot be sustained.
So the key is to spur investments. But investments that will create production and jobs are scarce. There is lack of investor confidence in the country. Among the reasons are: the political instability brought about by serious questions on GMA’s legitimacy, the unpredictability of policy and the reversal of rules of the game (think PIATCO), weak infrastructure (government under-spending in infrastructure), peace and order, widespread and massive corruption, etc….
Moreover, the growth that GMA boasts of has bypassed the majority. The SWS survey showed that the increase in hunger incidence last year was the highest recorded in recent history.
Further, unemployment and underemployment remain high. More than a fourth of the labor force are either unemployed or underemployed. What is likewise not revealed by the official statistics is that the quality of employment for those who have work is poor.
For example, counted as among the employed are “those who do any work for one hour during the reference period for pay or profit, or work without pay on the farm or business enterprise operated by a member of the same household related by blood, marriage or adoption.” (Definition comes from the National Statistical Coordination Board.)
In the same vein, many of those employed are engaged in activities, especially in rural areas, that have low productivity. In the rural areas, much of the labor is unpaid. Poverty-level wages are the norm, even in urban areas. The minimum wage cannot even be enforced.
So the irony is this: there is growth, stock market is bullish, hot money flows BUT there is an employment crisis, as productive sectors of the economy cannot generate enough high-productivity jobs.
What can then be done to spur investments for long-term growth and generate quality jobs?
It is mainly a political question (review the obstacles to investments, and the conclusion one gets is that the institutions are the prime culprit)…
In relation to economic policies, the key measures that should be done (measures that GMA failed to do) are:
1. Increase spending for public investments that will strengthen the country’s resources; specifically give priority to spending on infrastructure, education, health and nutrition. During GMA’s period, spending for these sectors has gone down in real term or in per capita terms.
2. Create conditions for higher productivity by providing ample budgetary and institutional support for research and technology, agriculture extension services, access to credit, and the like.
3. Address the perennial problem of low taxes by improving tax collection (instead of raising taxes that affect the poor), introducing progressive and equity-oriented consumption taxes, and reducing graft and corruption. GMA has mainly depended on under-spending and anti-poor taxation to narrow the fiscal deficit.
4. Arrest the further appreciation of the peso, which is harmful to Filipino exporters and producers for the domestic market (who have to compete with cheaper imports). The strong peso also means less income for the OFW dependents.
5. Provide targeted incentives to investments that will create jobs and promote technological innovation, but making sure that such incentives lead to greater social benefits and will not be abused by vested interests. In this regard, an industrial and technology policy for the long term is required.
6. In the meantime, as a short-term measure, immediate relief has to be given to production, employment and income. Among the options are correction of exchange rate, accessible credit, and a slight adjustment of tariffs (which are in fact very low).