May 28, 2006
ARREST OF 5 ESTRADA SUPPORTERS DAMPENS SENATES INTEREST IN ENACTING ANTI-TERRORISM LAW
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today warned that the alarming incidence of human rights violations in the country, including the atrocities against five Estrada supporters, is making it more difficult for the Senate to approve the Anti-Terrorism bill.
Pimentel said he and his colleagues in the Upper Chamber are worried that the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act will be taken advantage of by unscrupulous elements of the administration to harass and trample upon the rights of members of the political opposition and other administration critics under the guise of eliminating threats to national security.
He said the Gestapo-like arrest, detention and torture of five members of the Union of the Masses for Democracy and Justice, identified with former President Joseph Estrada, by operatives of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) has sparked fears over an escalation of human rights violations that may arise from the implementation of the Anti-Terrorism Act.
This will definitely affect the passage of the measure. We dont have an Anti-Terrorism Law yet but some elements of ISAFP are already behaving as if the country is under a fascist rule, the minority leader said.
Pimentel said the senators apprehension over the unabated extra-judicial killings of leftist militants and journalists further explain why they are not in a hurry to approve the administration-initiated Anti-Terrorism Act.
The human rights group Karapatan reported a total of 603 leftist activists slain since 2001. Likewise, 79 journalists have been killed since democracy was restored in 1986, including 44 since 2001.
Pimentel, however, made it clear that he believes in the necessity of enacting such a legislation to cope with the dangers that society faces from the onslaught of terrorism.
According to the senator, the Revised Penal Code, which was enacted into law several decades ago, is simply insufficient to equip law enforcement agencies with the legal weapon to combat terrorism
The Senate has been trying to craft its own version of Anti-Terrorism Act for the last four years. It was the late Sen. Robert Barbers who first sponsored the bill, followed by Sen. Manuel Villar and now Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile.
Pimentel said the Senates approval of the bill before the sine die adjournment of the regular session of Congress in early June, as expected by Malacañang , is remote. He said that at this stage, senators have not even agreed yet on the definition of terrorism.
My understanding is that even the United Nation has difficulty defining terrorism. If we are unable to define terrorism, then all statements about declaring war on terrorism is just a lot of hot air because we cannot declare war on something that is ill-defined, he remarked.
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