File photo shows Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana trying out a sniper rifle during a gun show in 2019. Lorenzana says if the anti-subversion law is revived, it should cover the Communist Party of the Philippines and front organizations, including the ‘legal left.’
Boy Santos
DND seeks broader wiretapping powers
Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - August 16, 2019 - 12:00am

‘Makabayan’ bloc to be covered if anti-subversion law revived

MANILA, Philippines — Security officials want broader wiretapping powers to fight terrorism and other threats to national security.

This is among the amendments to the Human Security Act of 2007 or Republic Act 9372, which will be recommended by the Cabinet cluster on security, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said yesterday.

Lorenzana, who heads the Cabinet cluster, told “The Chiefs” yesterday on Cignal TV’s One News that the wiretapping period should be extended to an initial 60 days instead of the 30 days specified under RA 9372, with one extension of up to 30 days allowed.

The law allows wiretapping, with the consent of the Court of Appeals, only for terror suspects, and expressly prohibits it in the case of lawyer-client communication, between doctor and patient, and between journalists and their sources.

Lorenzana said authorities would have to decide whether communist rebels should be classified as terrorists under the proposed amended law.

The communist New People’s Army (NPA) is classified as an international terrorist organization by the United States and certain European states, but there is no such classification by the Philippine government.

Lorenzana also told The Chiefs that if the anti-subversion law is revived, it should cover the Communist Party of the Philippines and CPP front organizations, including the so-called “legal left” such as the Makabayan bloc of party-list organizations, Lorenzana said.

The CPP is no longer an illegal organization following the repeal of the Anti-Subversion Law during the presidency of Fidel Ramos, who explored peace with the rebels. But Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, a former military chief, has proposed the revival of the law to fight, among others, reported communist “indoctrination” of youths.

Lorenzana told The Chiefs that the CPP should be declared illegal again if the law against subversion is revived.

“I would target the groups that are actually an organ of the CPP-NPA and one of them is what you call the Makabayan bloc,” he said. “They only support the agenda of the NPA.”

Among the groups under the bloc are Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Anakbayan, Anakpawis, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Pamalakaya, Kadamay, Alliance of Concerned Teachers and League of Filipino Students.

“If you look at the actions of… Makabayan bloc, where do they pour their resources? In far-flung areas where there are lots of NPAs,” Lorenzana said.

The bloc also reacts or moves whenever NPA suspects are arrested, he added.

For its part, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) assured the public that any amendment to RA 9372, also called the counterterrorism law, will be in accordance with existing local and international human rights law.

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen Edgard Arevalo, came out with the assurance amid fears that amending the country’s anti-terror law would only further aggravate human rights problem in the country.

“The enemy here is neither the government nor your AFP. We are your protectors, we are your defenders,” Arevalo said.

He stressed the AFP can only propose and that it is up to the country’s lawmakers to decide on any proposal.

A proposed amendment to the human security act is the removal of the P500,000 fine for each day of wrongful detention. The military also wants a longer period allowed for authorities to hold terror suspects without filing a case.

“We are seeking for the extension from three days to 30 days within which we can continue to hold in detention a suspected terrorist to continue up to the filing of evidence and obtaining vital information that would help us in establishing our case that would lead to conviction,” Arevalo said.

The AFP also wanted to penalize the act of glorification of terrorism, saying terrorists have resorted to using various social media to advance their cause and recruit new members.

Also included in the military proposal is penalizing not only consummated acts of terrorism but related acts as well like inciting to commit terrorism, recruitment to terrorist organization and providing material support to terrorism.

“These are just some of the proposals as regards, that we have and we are proposing to Congress to add to the present human security act which to our mind appears to be restrictive to security forces rather than empowering members of the security forces,” Arevalo said.

The military also wants the penalty for convicted terrorists upgraded to life imprisonment without parole from the current maximum of 40 years.

“We are living in extraordinary times. We are facing exceptional risk to our security, that’s why we are pushing for uncommon solution. What is at stake today is not just us, it is not just our lives and limbs and our possessions. It is about the future generation of our children and their future,” he said.

CPP only target

As administration officials bat for tougher laws against crime and terror, Secretary Año said a revived anti-subversion law will only target the CPP and its front organizations – not “legitimate” opposition groups and political parties.

“That’s all we want, only the CPP. Opposition and legitimate groups don’t have to worry – they’re not covered by the law,” Año said in Filipino in an interview over dzBB. “You don’t have a problem if you’re not a member of the CPP.”

He stressed he understands the concerns raised by some sectors considering that the anti-subversion law was abused during the Marcos regime.

The law was repealed in 1992 during the Ramos administration or decades after it was passed in 1957. Its repeal in 1992 was largely meant as a confidence building tack ahead of peace negotiations with communist rebels.

Año, a former chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said the repeal did not work as the CPP and its armed wing the NPA are still trying to overthrow the government through armed struggle.

He said the military was like in a boxing match with communist rebels – with one hand tied behind its back – because the CPP was enjoying its status as a legal organization.

He said he has yet to discuss the matter with President Duterte. He added it would be up to Congress to determine which organizations and groups should be deemed illegal for being directly linked to CPP.

He noted that CPP should be outlawed for advocating armed struggle through its “inseparable” armed wing – the NPA.

He admitted serious study should be made first before the anti-subversion law is revived, so that authorities could readily distinguish between rebels as “political dissenters and legitimate critics of the government.”  

Send them home

Sen. Ronaldo dela Rosa chided leftist lawmakers for calling for a stop to Senate hearing on alleged minor rebel recruits, saying they should have instead sent the young rebels home to their distraught parents.

Dela Rosa chairs the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs which conducted the hearing.

“Who is he to dictate me? Diktahan nya ang mga reds dun sa taas wag ako,” said Dela Rosa, referring to Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate and NPA members in the mountains.

Militant party-list lawmakers in the House of Representatives slammed the ongoing Senate investigation on the alleged disappearances of students recruited by leftist groups.

Members of the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives said the hearing called by Dela Rosa was a witch hunt targeting progressive organizations. They called on the Senate to end the probe and instead focus its investigative power on pressing concerns like poverty.

Setting aside legal issues, Dela Rosa said Zarate and other left-leaning elected officials should have exercised their moral duty to advise the teenagers in their custody to go home and see their families.

Dela Rosa also denied using the grieving parents for his own vested interest. “It is the other way around. They went to my office to seek help. So I’m helping them,” he said.

He also said it’s not yet too late for the young rebel recruits to return to the fold of the law. “The best way we can help our country solve its problem is to study hard,” he said.

Dela Rosa’s former subordinate, Philippine National Police chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde, for his part, asked teachers to stop “brainwashing” students. He issued the statement in reaction to ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro’s call for the PNP to stop its “witch hunt” of leftist teachers.

“What they should probably stop is brainwash our students. You are a teacher, you act like a teacher,” Albayalde told reporters on the sidelines of the national summit on crime prevention at the Manila Hotel.

“We strongly condemn the witch hunt at the Senate hearing where the Philippine National Police vowed to file child abuse cases against the teachers of youth activists tagged as missing,” Castro said earlier in a statement.

CHR reminder

 Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has reminded the administration that activism should not be linked to efforts to oust the government.

“Activism as a means to bring about social change is a crucial facet of a democracy,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said in a statement on Wednesday.

“It can be manifested through demonstrations and protests to contest an issue or advocate for a cause. It is a constitutionally-protected right, especially when used to petition the government for redress of grievances,” she added.

De Guia also warned against the grave implications of red tagging, or labeling groups and individuals as left-learning, subversive or  communist-terrorists for merely expressing dissent.

“We remind the government that mere association – in this case, to any leftist organization – is not a crime,” she said.

“Being part of an organization and believing in the principles they espouse is an exercise of the right to freedom of thought, assembly and association and may affect all other rights when curtailed, such as the right to free speech, expression, and movement among others,” she added.

The CHR official said there are already laws in place that penalize any illegal acts committed in furtherance of these beliefs.

De Guia cited a Supreme Court resolution stating that the freedom to believe is absolute, unlike the freedom to act which can be a subjected to regulation, especially for the protection of society.

“In this case, the participation of the youth in protests fall within the protection of the Constitution,” she said.

“Even the Convention on the Rights of Child, urges the State to protect those capable of forming their own views in expressing them, including the right to seek, receive and impart information for as long as they are within bounds of law and continue to be respectful of the rights or reputations of others,” De Guia added.

The CHR official said the best response to dissent is to effectively address legitimate grievances.

“We cannot have a government that operates merely on suspicion and disadvantages its citizen for exercising a right that they are entitled to,” she said.

“There must always a balance between upholding national security and respecting human rights. Laws are set to protect our rights—not violate them,” she added.

The CPP, for its part, said it expects its ranks to swell further on account of the administration’s repressive policies and actions. Reviving the anti-subversion law, it said, “will only foment greater dissent.”  – With Romina Cabrera, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Emmanuel Tupas

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