Philippine anti-terror law protested.

This is from the Tribune.
Often religious groups especially the Catholic Bishops speak out vociferously against the government often joining in demonstrations or even sponsoring them.
Imagine mainstream religious groups in the US talking about US state terrorism!
What makes the contrast even more striking is that the Philippines suffer from terrorist attacks of various sorts on a regular basis. (Of course even this should be taken in perspective. Your likelihood of suffering from violence of a garden variety criminal sort is far more likely than ever suffering from terrorist violence)

Religious groups also want HSA junked

By Benjamin B. Pulta and Sherwin C. Olaes


After lawyers groups and a number of political personalities having done so the other day, religious groups now have asked the Supreme Court (SC) to void the recently enacted anti-terror law of the country because it apparently espouses a “culture of violence.”

The Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines and the Inter-Faith JPIC (Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation) Network has written Chief Justice Reynato Puno to ask that the high court junk Republic Act (RA) 9372 or the Human Security Act of 2007 on the ground that the new law merely “legitimizes and reinforces a culture of violence.”

“We believe it is our moral and shared responsibility to denounce structures that obstruct justice, which today takes the form of state terrorism. It is already a known and proved fact that thousands of civilians have been brutally murdered. We further deplore the Human Security Act, which attempts to legalize and reinforce, or make conducive the violation of these rights,” the groups said in their letter.

“This unlawful law is not only a mockery of the Gospel but also of our Constitution,” they moreover averred.

They said the HSA is condemnable because “terrorism,” as defined by the law, is broad and suppresses the rights to speech, press, assembly and redress of grievances by criminalizing the expression of one’s demands toward government.

They also said the law violates the right to due process, the right to privacy and the right to be secure in their persons by institutionalizing “terrorist profiling, surveillance and interception of private communications.”

The two groups attached in their petition letter 2,170 signatures of religious superiors and provincials representing various congregations and priests and seminarians. Also signing the petition letter were bishops, priests and pastors of the various major Protestant denominations.

Last Wednesday, a fifth petition was filed by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), the lawyers’ group Counsels for the Defense of Liberties (Codal), former Senators Sergio Osmeña III and Wigberto Tañada asking the SC to declare the law unconstitutional for “suppressing the right of free expression, association and assembly.”

In their petition, they claimed that the crimes related to terrorism are already penalized under the Revised Penal Code and there was no need for another law to provide for the same penalties.

“The ultimate and precise goal of RA 9372 or the Human Security Act of 2007 is its ultimate and precise goal of punishing political verbal expression,” they stressed.

The petitioners also asked the high tribunal to issue a status quo order or a temporary restraining order on the implementation of the HSA pending the resolution of their petition.

But even as more and more sectors are calling for the scrapping of the law, Malacañang yesterday said it is determined to implement it.

While saying the Palace is leaving the matter of responding to the several petitions to the Office of Solicitor General, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita emphasized that the HSA’s provisions had been made public and none of them are intent on violating human rights.

Ermita, along with members of the so-called Anti-Terrorism Council of the government,

were named respondents in the suit lodged by the IBP, Codal and the two former lawmakers.

Mrs. Arroyo signed the HSA into law last March to purportedly provide legal muscle to the government’s war against terrorism.

The law, which the President labeled as an “institutional landmark of the 13th (previous) Congress” was the result of the consolidation of House Bill 4839 and Senate Bill 2137, whose principal authors were Rep. Simeon Datumanong and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, respectively.

Datumanong was the chairman of the House committee on public order and human rights, while Enrile was the chairman of the Senate committee on justice and human rights in the last Congress.

Mrs. Arroyo said with an anti-terror law in place, the inevitable defeat of the local cells of the homegrown terror group Abu Sayyaf and the Southeast regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah and the main international terror organization al-Qaeda would happen in the very near future.

Under the law, the crime of terrorism includes piracy in general or mutiny in high seas; rebellion or insurrection; coup d’etat, including acts committed by private persons; murder; kidnapping and serious illegal detention; and, crimes involving destruction such as arson.

The crime of terrorism is punishable by 40 years of imprisonment without the benefit of parole.

The law was made effective last July 15.


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