Senator Launches Book on How Philippines’s Anti-Terror Law Was Crafted

May. 02, 2007

MANILA –Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel,
Jr. (PDP-Laban) will launch a book on how the Senate
crafted the Human Security Act of 2007, the countrys
version of the anti-terrorism legislation which was
approved after more than six years of deliberations.

The book will be launched at the Dagot Hall,
Philippine Normal University (PNU) Library, Taft
Avenue, Manila at 3 p.m. on May 4 (Friday). Among the
personalities invited to grace the occasion are
Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Purificacion
Quisumbing, Supreme Court Associate Justice Angelina
Gutierrez, Senate President Manuel Villar, Sen.
Rodolfo Biazon and Gabriela party-list Rep. Liza Maza.

During the prolonged floor debates on the
controversial measure, Pimentel presented over a
hundred amendments most of which were in written
form and others verbally proposed to make sure that
it contains sufficient safeguards against violations
of human rights and civil liberties of the people.

About 97 percent of Pimentels amendments were
accepted by the measures sponsor, Sen. Juan Ponce
Enrile, and are now embodied in the HRA.

In effect, there is hardly any section of the HRA
which does not bear the imprint of the amendments that
Pimentel introduced.

The amendments I introduced are designed to make the
Act provide security for our people and country
against terrorism but at the same time uphold the
rights and secure the liberties of our people.

Pimentel said the Human Security Act has some inherent
defects. For example, it does not define what
terrorism is. It merely makes it illegal for persons
to commit six offenses already punishable under the
Revised Penal Code and six other crimes already
punishable under special law and martial law decrees
if done to sow panic in the communities.

The offenses covered by the HRA already punishable by
the Revised Penal Code are piracy,
rebellion/insurrection, coup d etat, murder,
kidnapping and destruction of properties.

The offenses already punishable under special laws and
martial law decrees are: arson, possession of toxic
substances, hijacking, piracy and illegal possession
of firearms.

During the debates on the bill, I argued that there
was no need to punish again what is already penalized
under existing laws. To no avail, Pimentel said.

Among the major amendments introduced by Pimentel into
the HRA are the following:

Reducing the period of detention without court
warrants of arrests/to not more than three days as
required by the Constitution.
Requiring the police/law enforcers to immediately
bring before any judge, Commission on Human Rights
official or justice of the Sandiganbayan any person
arrested by them on charges or suspicion of terrorism
before he or she is detained.
Compensating persons wrongfully arrested and
detained on terrorism charges P500,000 for every day
of illegal detention.
Exempting media practitioners, lawyers and doctors
from being compelled to reveal to the law enforcement
authorities their communities with their clients,
patients and sources of information.
Creating a grievance committee, headed by the
Ombudsman before which people harassed by law
enforcers on suspicion of involvement in terrorism
activities, may complain and get redress for their

Despite criticisms that the insertion of a slew of
safeguards against human rights abuses has defanged
the measure, the contingent of the House of
Representatives accepted the Senate version in its
entirety during the bicameral conference committee
negotiation which lasted only for about 90 minutes.

Although the Human Security Act was signed into law by
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on March 6, the new
law will take effect only two months after the May 14
national and local elections. Likewise, RA 9372
provides that the law shall be automatically
suspended one month before and two months after the
holding of any election.

We inserted this safeguard precisely to prevent
people in power from taking advantage of the
Anti-Terrorism Act to harass or cause harm to their
political opponents during the election period,
Pimentel said.

Notwithstanding the adoption of numerous safeguards
intended to ensure that human rights are not
sacrificed in the name of the anti-terrorism drive,
Pimentel has voiced apprehension that some of the
provisions of the HRA may be abused by the powerful
and used as an instrument of state terrorism against
the powerless.

He said these provisions may unsettle the people
because they allow law enforcement agents to: 1. place
a terror suspect under surveillance; 2. arrest and
detain terror suspects without warrants; 3. examine a
terror suspects bank deposits and financial papers;
and 4. seize, sequester and freeze bank deposits,
financial papers and properties of all kinds or nature
of the terror suspects.

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