By Romy Teruel
">Columnist, Bohol Sunday Post</a>
July 15, 2007
Republic Act No. 9372 or the Human Security Act of 2007 takes effect today.
And for that, militant groups identified with the left are making all sorts of noise in the streets to oppose it.
The standard and easiest way of addressing the opposition to the Act has been made many times before and that is "He who is not a terrorist or planning to be a terrorist need not be afraid." This however doesn't work precisely because the public is not aware of what the new law provides. There should have been a period to inform the public on the extent of coverage of the law. The period of waiting from its passage to its affectivity could have been the most opportune time.
Public hearings were made before the passage of the law but we know that between what was heard and what was approved there may be a lot of difference as the law passed a bicameral committee where changes may have been made as a result of those hearings.
And let me emphasize our experience about many good laws having bad enforcement. The courts interpret the law but enforcers have their own interpretation of the same law when enforcing it and there is where the fears of the opposing militant groups are anchored.
I am no lawyer and I do not pretend to know the law. But even an average mind reading the Human Security Act will be put at ease as immediately after the title (Sec.1) is the assurance in Section 2 that said "Nothing in the Act shall be interpreted as a curtailment, restriction or diminution of the executive powers of government.." and this executive powers "shall not prejudice respect for human rights which shall be absolute at all times."(Bold print mine).
However again, because we have a long history of human rights violations perpetrated by both government agents and the CPP-NPA, nobody trusts anyone anymore.
Again there may be grounds to fear because the Act defines terrorism as an act encompassed in the laws on Piracy and Mutiny in the High Seas or Philippine Waters, Rebellion and Insurrection, Coup d'Etat, Murder, Kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention, crime involving destruction like Arson, Toxic Substances, High-Jacking, Piracy and Highway Robbery.
While surveillance and wiretapping can only be allowed if authorized by the Court of Appeals, enforcement can be flawed. Fear on this can only be overcome if the Police can show professionalism in its law enforcement. Besides, the person or group of persons or association surveilled and wiretapped has or have the right to be informed.
Although again the proscription of a person, group, organization or association as terrorist is easier to get because this is applied before the Regional Trial Court and no longer at the Court of Appeals. .
What perhaps can calm the nerve of the ordinary citizen or the militant groups now marching on the streets to protest the implementation of the Human Security Act is that in the event the person charged with terrorism is acquitted, government will pay him/her P500,000.00 per day of confinement in prison as damage fee.
It will really help if the department of Justice will initiate information dissemination activities down to the municipal level if only to assuage the people that government is not out to get their enemies at any cost.