MANILA - One of the framers of the 1987 Constitution on Friday expressed apprehensions that the new Anti-Terror bill would give government further discretionary powers that could lead to more cases of human rights violations.
“This administration’s record is not very good on respect for human rights, and now invoking national security to justify the anti-terrorism [bill] with more powers that can be abused, broader definition of terrorism... It includes all kinds of crimes, for example material support, plan, train, recruit, inciting to, publishing ads, propaganda and so on, and this is the context in which this anti-terrorism act is being approved and implemented,” said Christian Monsod, also a former Commission on Elections chair.
Monsod cited one of the provisions of the law qualifying an act as terrorism: when it seriously destabilizes or destroys the fundamental political, economic or social structures of the country.
“That’s a very dangerous provision,” he said. “Is advocacy and movements for radical social, and political change of the unjust structures in the country terrorism?”
In an interview on ANC’s Headstart, Monsod issued a reminder that the heart of the Constitution is social justice and human rights.
“They are not fully implemented and those structures have to be changed. The structures rooted in a feudalism society that is impervious to change for generation and that may be considered terrorism by the anti-terrorism council. So what happens to us?”
The Anti-Terror bill, which President Rodrigo Duterte has certified as urgent, has been transmitted to Malacañang.
“To me, we ask ourselves what is the greater problem today especially to the poor? Is it national security or public health? The Bayanihan act meant to ameliorate the suffering of the poor—18 million households- it said will be helped. Our experience is that the poor bear the worst abuses in authoritarianism because it breeds little dictators at the ground level, thus the Anti-Terrorism act would hurt the poor more while Bayanihan 2 would help the poor more,” he said.
Monsod also expressed concerns over the bill's provision of warrantless arrest, which allows detention of up to 24 days.
“The warrant of arrest can be done without judicial issuance. That’s against the Constitution's provision, Article 3, Section 2 on the right to be secure in their person, property and papers against unreasonable search and seizure based on a warrant, search or a warrant of arrest issued by a judge on probable cause,” he said.
The proposed measure would grant the Anti-Terrorism Council the power to designate individuals or groups as terrorists “upon finding probable cause” and they can be detained without warrant within 14 days and their assets frozen.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo had said that the Anti-Terrorism Council does not have any judicial or quasi-judicial power. He said authorities would have to ask the council's permission to go to the Court of Appeals for gathering of evidence against a suspected terrorist.
“We are on a slippery slope already on that warrantless arrest,” said Monsod, citing the incident where authorities arrested without a warrant a teacher for a social media post where he offered a P50 million reward to kill President Rodrigo Duterte.
“The issue of improbability of it being done was not even applied,” he said.
“If you give the executive more powers and defines it as broad as can be, where are the rights of individuals? Where are the human rights?”
For Monsod, the right balance would be to use the weapons of democracy and social justice to tackle the problems of inequality and poverty, which he said are sources of why people are getting angry.
“If we attend to those, then we can find a right balance. Unfortunately today there is an imbalance on abuse of power on the ground of national security," he said.