By PNA From the Mail

Best is TEST the law

By Ely Dejaresco

SUPREME Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, in reacting to the newly signed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 by President Rodrigo R. Duterte on July 3, said the Supreme Court is now ready to accept questions about the new law’s constitutionality. In fact, the Tribunal is now swamped with negative petitions.

But the best litmus test is to let the law run for a while and test its effectivity. After all, if it is unjust,  and with evidence, the Supreme Court can easily decapitate the law by declaring its unconstitutional. Period. But not now. The Nation has a big problem with terrorist threats. We must protect and defend ourselves by pre-empting the terrorists. 

In this manner, it will also prove critics wrong that democracy is dead in this country. By questioning its constitutionality in the Supreme Court, it means that democracy is still very much alive in this country. On the other hand, is the present march of protest, not a form of suppressing the framers’ good intentions?  So: test the law. Let it run for a while -- until it hurts.

President Duterte on Friday signed into law a contentious anti-terrorism measure in the midst of mounting opposition and fears that it targets critics of the government. not terrorists?

But Duterte’s legal team had weighed up the concerns from different groups before the bill was signed. The law takes effect 15 days after publication.

The Philippine Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which amends the 2007 Human Security Act, expands the definition of terrorism, which human rights advocates say could lead to abuses and stifle free speech. It also permits the surveillance, warrantless arrest and detention of suspects for up to 24 days, upon clearance by the Anti Terrorism Council. 

Our reaction is that this law is only good up to its implementors.  Depending on whose administration it is being implemented. 

If the implementer is a saint, then he or she will invoke righteous justice in implementing the Anti-Terrorism Law. There will be no complaints. But if the implementer is the devilish kind, then unrighteous justice will prevail and there will be complaints from all over. 

The good side of the law is that it intends to pre-empt the terrorist, say from exploding a suicide bomb in our markets or churches. It can arrest the would-be bomber on mere suspicion but with evidence -- before he actually explodes the bomb---before innocent people are killed.  Ain't that a good law?  Otherwise, if the government has no evidence,  the arrestor will be held liable if he unjustly makes a wrongful warrantless arrest.


The law is not yet tested by time. Let it be. Why is there so big fuss? Are the noisy protestors friends or foes of terrorists? Who by shouting on the streets are they merely exposing their true color and affiliations?  Why howl if you have nothing to fear? We are almost sure that by now, government agents are now documenting who are the noisy oppositions for possible links with terrorists. Yes, a wise agent can use this protest pandemic to lead them to the real terrorists. On the other hand, the real terrorists are just keeping silent.

Every good law can be unjustly implemented, depending on its implementers and the entire justice system. Everybody knows that interpreting the law comes from all sides, depending on who is majority and influential on the arguments.

Surely PRRD will make sure that it will pass the constitutionality test, otherwise, he would not have signed it. After Duterte’s term,  that’s another big story for the future.

On the side of its authors, this is a good law, if not abused because it can conduct sweeping hindrances to terroristic acts, therefore, good for the public welfare…. But on the other hand, if it is abused even to arrest innocent persons, then that is another story….any existing law for that matter is always bad if done IN EXCESS of its limitations.

As the law on illegal drugs, it is a good law, but if only small fries are caught and killed and the big drug lords go scot-free, what good is the law.? If rogue policemen/enforcers are the first to violate the law, then what good is a good law? It becomes no good, naturally.

So let us give the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 a chance to be implemented. let us see whom the government will arrest and detain first. Will these be hardcore terrorists, or, will the arrests be done in harassment of political rivals? It remains to be seen. Give the framers a chance. 

And until proven otherwise, let's give a new law enough time to be tested and implemented. It still remains to be seen, so let’s wait for how the Duterte law enforcers will implement this new anti-terror law. 

(Mr. Ely Dejaresco is Chair Emeritus of the Dumaguete Press Club)


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