NTF ELCAC lambastes NUPL for myopic logic vs. anti-terror bill

By Gigie Arcilla

June 8, 2020, 2:56 pm

MANILA – The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) last week lambasted human rights lawyers group, National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), for its myopic arguments against the anti-terrorism bill.

Reacting to NUPL’s statement issued on June 1, 2020 warning against the passage of Senate Bill No. 1083 otherwise known as the Law on the Prevention of Terrorist Acts of 2020, the NTF ELCAC Legal Cluster cited the former’s remarkably blunt refusal to lend their efforts in defending this Nation.

“Their argument that this Administration cannot be trusted with this law is myopic and short-sighted. Laws are not crafted to live and die with any particular administration. Often they are enacted to survive a generation if not more, for as long as the circumstances which gave birth to them continue to subsist,” the NTF ELCAC said in a statement on June 3.

This law, it added, addresses an evil that threatens us and the generation that will eventually replace ours.

“A terrorist threat is not a threat to this Administration. It is a threat to this Nation – to the people -- including the NUPL. It is a biding evil that waits in the shadows until it is ready to unleash its terror upon the population. That fact is lost on their lawyers. As the adage goes: ‘out of sight, out of mind’,” it said. “They are lucky enough not to have to defend the populace along the frontlines, so they can continue enjoying their freedoms and keep sounding the death knells of democracy.”

It said the Senate bill, which was filed by Senators Vicente Sotto III, Panfilo Lacson, Imee Marcos, Manuel Lapid, Ramon Revilla, Jr., and Ronald dela Rosa on September 30, 2019, and its Lower House counterpart bill are an attempt to keep evil at bay and, as ironic as it may seem to NUPL, protect the country’s democracy.

“The bill is a balancing act. The question is not if we should balance national security with constitutional freedoms – which admit exceptions as the NUPL very well knows -- but how. Perhaps if NUPL lawyers spent their time addressing the concerns of the security sector, then maybe we can arrive at an Anti-Terrorism Bill that achieves a perfect balance that everyone can be happy with,” the NTF ELCAC statement read.

Filipinos, it said, have heard militant groups’ rallying cries since the passage of the Human Security Actin 2007, a little more than a decade ago.

“Their incessant wails almost makes one think they actually want to see democracy die,” it added.

NTF ELCAC, which was created by Executive Order 70 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in December 2018, said though the country is in a “thinning” democracy, it still sees groups like the NUPL openly criticizing the administration in a lively or boisterous way where the social media community and other groups continue to find ways to protest amidst the pandemic (https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1266226/first-in-ph-history-labor-day-protest-to-go-online-amid-covid-19-pandemic).

“If we truly examine the provisions of Senate Bill No. 1083, we see an honest attempt from lawmakers to comply with the constitutional freedoms of the people while increasing the means to strengthen our national security,” it said. 

They bewail, for instance, that the law criminalizes “inciting” to terrorism because it will lead to a legitimate speech being outlawed, it added.

“For them, this will be used as a tool to stifle dissent. But the fact that authoritarian states are scared enough of words that they have to stifle them should impress upon the NUPL the impact of words to those harboring evil intentions and those whose first instinct is to take up arms against innocent civilians and hold the government at ransom,” NTF ELCAC statement said.

It expressed doubts that NUPL can name a single instance in which this provision was abused, 13 years since the Human Security Act back in 2007 was enacted.

It clarified that Senate Bill No. 1083, as did the Human Security Act, requires judicial authorization and, more importantly, probable cause before any wiretap can be applied for.

“Not only that, but the authorization can also last up to a maximum of only 90 days and not a day longer,” it said.

Militants' whining protests, it said, evince a broader attitude among those opposing this Administration: go big or go home.

“They can only argue in absolutes and must, at all, times stay in their designated trenches. They refuse to acknowledge real issues the administration is trying to address, so they can maintain their self-perceived moral purity,” NTF ELCAC said.

It added that what is lost upon them is that the security sector is conscious enough to ask for an actual law, that everyone can dissect, study, and even contribute to.

“For all the creativity that the NUPL pours into defending its causes, they are. They refuse to meet halfway; because compromise for them is not an option. An impasse is the most they can do. Inaction is their preferred tool,” the statement read. (PNA)