The anti-panic law

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.

Senate Bill No. 2137 Approved Bicameral Version
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).

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Manuel L. Quezon III.

87 thoughts on “The anti-panic law

  1. Leftist parlylist org. such as Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Anak Pawis, and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, should be courageous enough to admit their being front organization to the CPP-NPA-NDF and let the people vote them in this issue. I doubt if they can get their vaunted 12 million votes during the last election if they run in this platform, say establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat if they win and installing Joma as President for Life and Satur Ocampo as Vice Prexy for Life. Ang saya,saya wala ng magulong election.

  2. “Global leadership was not something she seized out of ambition, but was thrust on her by the failures of the rest of world and her own stunning successes.”

    Ah… the white man’s burden….

  3. yon nga ang problema dito zapper, we want them to admit their being front. question is, what if hindi nga sila front [of course, the extreme right will not buy this; but what if not?–why force them into admission? if by incidentally going along same ideological beliefs, does this make all lefties fronts for cpp-npa-ndf?

    again, let’s say they openly proclaim that they are indeed fronts, and subject themselves to an election. two possible outcomes–either they win or lose. if they lose, perhaps this will prove your conjecture right–the lose on the basis of an ultra-left platform. but if they win, what will this tell us as a people?

  4. Didn’t Bayan and the like marched into the halls of Congress with a lot of help from the EDSA 2 forces in exchange for their support in ousting Erap?

  5. James,

    That is far from reality. An accused will require a lawyer which is already an expense as even the innocent needs defending in court too. So even the innocent needs to fear.

  6. …if they run in this platform, say establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat if they win and installing Joma as President for Life and Satur Ocampo as Vice Prexy for Life. Ang saya,saya wala ng magulong election. – zapper

  7. …(continued from 3:42pm above)

    zapper, how would they be able to accomplish that? Do you think they are capable of changing the Constitution, rigging the election results and unleashing the military on anyone who opposes? If they conspire to do that, then Gloria Arroyo is entitled to sue them for plagiarism.

  8. i n e

    but if they win, what will this tell us as a people?

    if they win, then we have to respect the will of the people and accept our fate. Who knows, maybe they will turned out to be pragmatic like the chinese, or the vietnamese where the communist party is the only political party and transform our society into a rigid society of disciplined and patriotic people whose existence is solely for the service of the people. Maybe we have to change our National Anthem into Internationale but who cares because as Adel loves to say, “at the end of the day the people will decide”.

  9. to inidoro’s question “…if say a coup détat is staged, and a street text party (say a case similar to edsa 2) ensues following its declaration, is this terrorism?”

    The answer is NO. In fact, the answer is NO to many questions posed in this blog and the reason is that THE CONSTITUTION is never suspended.

    OneVoice can herald a march towards Malacanang — free speech, A-Okay. AbuSayyaf organizing a bombing in Glorietta or GenSan City — not-OKAY. AbuSayyaf organization should be rooted out (and the Philippine citizenry should appreciate actions by the international community (US and EU, in particular) intended to stop from reaching AbuSayaf any financial and material support from Saudi Arabia or Libya.)

    The issue that people seem to have is that some of the leaders of today — Nelson Mandela and Hugo Chavez make great examples — were suspect in their days. Hugh Chavez is adulated by Abe Margallo, but probably not because Hugo is an ex-military officer and a coup d’etat instigator. Nelson Mandela is also adulated around the world, and again, probably not because he espoused and put into action terrorist activities in South Africa.

    There is no glory nor honor in Nelson Mandela’s actions that resulted in death to innocent civilians. Even Nelson Mandela agrees that he should serve jail time for the terrorist actions he unleashed. He should have been captured — as he was — and put into jail — as he was.

  10. On the question of whether good organizations have things to fear about the Anti-Terror Law — cvj is right when he says YES; cvj is right when he says that the State can make a mistake, or that the agents of the state can sometimes be malevolent.

    There indeed are risks, and better-organized activists (which, we all know, include nuns and priests plus high-school and college-kids) not only face up to the risk, they have contingency plans. One thing these good activists can do to reduce their risk is to be more judicious as to how much they get entangled with the CPP/NPA or the Abu Sayaf, which is within the realm of reality. OR, the good activists can go home, which is not in the realm of reasonable.

    AND WHEN the good activists are picked up by the military or the police, it behooves both sides (activists and agents of the State) to follow protocols and procedures. To repeat, it is the responsibility of the activist leaders and organizers to have given their followers instructions for “just in case”.

  11. UPn student,

    Why the plurality in your thoughts? – organizationS, activistS

    Where does an individual fit in all of that?

  12. zapper:

    “if they win, then we have to respect the will of the people and accept our fate/”

    exactamente. and respect is what is lacking in this current admin who’s been trampling the democratic processes left and right, from elections to constitutional provisions. people can see these, and maybe, just maybe this is the reason why there is growing resentment and exodus to the boondoocks, like during the marcos years. and if the process is channeled through elections, and they win, we deserve their presence because the “silent majority” kept themselves sidelined by deciding to “move on” and they have not even moved a mountain.

  13. justice league… an activist-minded individual who is a loner probably gets ignored by the State for being unable by his lonesome to cause enough noise.

  14. The Anti Panic Law — haha.

    What people don’t see is the larger problem posed by Terrorism. And it’s not about crafting a law bereft of properly “defining” it.
    Was that law passed to prevent Terrorism or to make Terrorism illegal? And by whose definitions? Because if the lawmakers’ (funny name to those who drafted and passed it) intentions were the former, it certainly wasn’t what was in the bill. While, if it was the latter, it certainly didn’t succeed in doing so. Apart from enumerating crimes and designating future trick-or- treaters as “terrorist” by definition of sowing fear, that bill should’ve been left off the back-burner.
    Back to the real problem posed by Terrorism, and by my definition: a calculated/planned act by person/s that results in deaths of civilians to promote an ideology espoused by the organization he/she/they belong to.
    is this:
    polarization of the society into good and evil.
    The group oneself belongs to is good, everyone else is evil.
    By my count, Bush has opened a Pandora’s box no one can ever close again. He has given the Islamic extremists (which is what they’re better called) the upper hand, and will probably win them the war. Extremism has spilled onto the international scene, much like the current trend of globalization.
    There are 2 lessons in here for everyone involved.
    Watch The Postman first before waging an idiotic war.
    The extremists wins the moment we become too afraid to step outdoors or too afraid that we draft laws sowing paranoia and more injustices, instead of preventing it.
    The result of Bush’s push to bring democracy to a people not asking for it: America long proud of its Liberty now grows increasingly anti-libertarian in an effort to thwart future 9/11’s. A dent in American democracy, far worser than AlQaida or any of the extremists groups could ever have done. And Bush started it all.
    For a really crazy conspiracy theory, visit my site at

  15. JusticeLeague… there is noise which the tree falling in the forest makes when there is no one around to hear, and then there is noise.

    The loner-activist who has not yet been warned by friend or foe with message “… huy… ingat ka… sumosobra ka naman ata!” probably has not grated enough on the sensibilities of some members of either the State or some movements/enterprises like the CPP/NPA or the jueteng-lords. A loner-noisemaker in the blogworld whose actions have not yet translated into fifty pairs of legs marching in the same direction (or even posters on lampposts or harangues over the airwaves) probably has not made enough noise yet.

    Which is why terrorists like terrorism — sowing fear on the civilian population quickly gets attention.

  16. UPn Student,

    “A loner-noisemaker in the blogworld whose actions have not yet translated into fifty pairs of legs marching in the same direction (or even posters on lampposts or harangues over the airwaves) probably has not made enough noise yet.”

    What the heck is the difference of above and the example of One Voice heralding a march of 1,000 towards Malacanang?

  17. why should i or any one else believe what alston has to say about “extra-judicial killings” (a dumb terminology, i insist, because there is no such thing as “judicial killing”) in the philippines. he was in the country for 10 days. assuming he did not sleep, eat, shower, answer the call of nature, and indulge in philippine brand of socializing and hospitality, he only had 10 days to interview witnesses, “civil society” activists, military members, government officials, media “experts”, and then sort out documents, newspaper articles, commentaries, analysis, pictorials and videotapes, and review them to their minutest details. unless he had a preconcieved notion of what to find, and a predisposition to adopt a particular conclusion, it would have been humanly impossible to produce a report, one way or the other.

    Mr. Alston represents an ultra-liberal dominated organization that is sometimes known for its left-leaning symphaties and anti-americanism.

    Under the circumstances,I, for one, cannot in good conscience accept Mr. Alston’s conclusions as credible and unbiased. The fact that he is a “UN Rapporteur” does not change his “report” as unconvincing in my humble ‘estimation’.

  18. Bencard, what a coincidence. Under the circumstances,I, for one, cannot in good conscience accept your conclusions as credible and unbiased. The fact that you are a “pro-Arroyo family lawyer” does not change your “comment” as unconvincing in my humble ‘estimation’.

  19. “why should i or any one else believe what alston has to say about “extra-judicial killings” (a dumb terminology, i insist, because there is no such thing as “judicial killing”) in the philippines.”

    clarification: what about death sentences? aren’t they judicial killings for they are meted according to the requirements of justice–granting you are for it?

  20. iniduro, the last I heard, death penalty has been abolished by GMA. A death sentence not carried out amounts to no killing, does it?

  21. Bencard… People have been killed by policemen or by other government agents, so there are killings. There are judicial killings, and then there are extra-judicial killings.
    If the police obtains an arrest warrant for Mister-X; if during the arrest, MisterX was killed by the arresting officers, and if in the official inquiry that follows, the arresting officers were exonerated (e.g. MisterX was not only armed but started shooting atthe officers), that will be a judicial killing (of no concern to Alston).
    An extra-judicial killing is where a MisterY was killed by government agents and there is no “audit trail” of the signatories that triggered the event that resulted in the death of MisterY, nor are there any official inquiries to determine if there were procedural- or any other errors that the government agents may have committed.

  22. UP student, “judicial killings” (if any) connotes court-ordered execution. A policeman or soldier is not a court of law unto itself. I suggest you go back to school – “UP” or otherwise.

  23. “iniduro, the last I heard, death penalty has been abolished by GMA. A death sentence not carried out amounts to no killing, does it?” – bencard

    GMA did not abolish the death penalty. She just declared a moratorium on executions. Only Congress can pass a law abolishing the death penalty.

    Judicial killings have simply been suspended.

  24. shaman, thanks for pointing that out. but, still, there is no “judicial killing” if there is no execution. Only the executive can carry out a “death” sentence, otherwise the President can commute it to life, grant reprieve or, in proper cases, pardon.

  25. Bencard… you are dancing away from the issue. Just so it is clear, you are wrong when you say that there are no extra-judicial killings in the Philippines.

  26. only in your mind, upn, only in your mind. you wouldn’t see what is “wrong” if it hits you in the eye.

  27. Bencard, so are you saying that all the killings in the Philippines committed by CAFGU or police or military were either authorized by the courts or were done in the course of military engagements with rebels? Only a fool will believe that, and you are not a fool, are you?

  28. stude: better a fool than a blind idiot. afterall, like the old song goes: “everybody is somebody’s fool”.

    either you could not comprehend the neaning of what i wrote, or you are deliberately mischaracterizing it. i just pointed out that the description “extra-judicial” killing is a misnomer since there is no “judicial” or court-ordered killings in the philippines. what’s so complicated about that?

  29. …afterall, like the old song goes: “everybody is somebody’s fool”. – Bencard

    We know who’s fool you are.

  30. cvj, yeah, “we” means you and “johnny carson” of this blog and, of course, other members of the anti-GMA club.

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