EDITORIAL - Subversion as a crime
(The Philippine Star) - August 19, 2019 - 12:00am

Over three decades have passed, but memories remain indelible of how the Marcos dictatorship used anti-subversion laws to crack down on political dissent.

This is the biggest problem faced by proponents of the revival of laws against subversion. Led by Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, a former military chief and Army commander, the proponents stress that any revival of the law would target mainly those waging an armed struggle nationwide to overthrow the government and the democratic way of life, specifically the New People’s Army.

Because the NPA is taking instructions from the Communist Party of the Philippines, the proponents want the CPP outlawed again, as it was under the original anti-subversion law or Republic Act 1700, passed in 1957. And if the mother unit is outlawed, according to the proponents, so should its political arm the National Democratic Front as well as communist front organizations that represent various sectors.

The left-leaning front organizations, currently in the political mainstream, are actively indoctrinating and recruiting youths, according to the proponents of the anti-subversion law who want to put a stop to such activities. Along with the revival of the law, the proponents want police presence in state-run universities.

Youths like to explore new ideas, and the spirit of exploration is particularly strong during the university years. If they tend to succumb to “indoctrination” and embrace certain ideas, it’s unlikely that police presence on campus will prevent them from doing so. Considering the rebellious streak in the typical college student, any state security clampdown will likely even have the opposite effect, driving the youths closer to what authorities will consider as subversive. Policy makers must consider this as they deliberate on proposals to deploy police personnel in university campuses.

Because of recent developments, there are also valid concerns that a new anti-subversion law may be used against political opponents of the administration. Already, members of the opposition as well as clergy and the legal profession have been slapped with sedition charges, based mainly on the say-so of a man whose story changes dramatically depending, it seems, on his circumstances.

Martial law in Mindanao has been nothing like the martial law of the dictatorship. Proponents are insisting that this will also be the case in the revival of the anti-subversion law. They will have to contend with constitutional guarantees against laws that impinge on civil liberties.

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