Needed: Citizenship refresher

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    ‘Unfortunately it should be obvious to one and all that when people are in power – even as temps because that’s what they are in a democratic society like ours – they forget (I am kindly assuming they know) the underlying principles and rationale behind Constitutional law as a means to balance State power.’

    AS is expected, the nearly fait accompli that is the new Anti-Terror Bill has spawned a flood of comments on social media, with supporters and critics blasting away with sometimes undisguised glee.

    It comes at an interesting time for the country: we are in the middle of a pandemic, which revealed how unprepared Government was, and which now threatens to plunge our erstwhile robust economy into a tailspin not seen since perhaps the assassination of Ninoy Aquino in 1983. OFWs are coming home, their future uncertain; with their future uncertain, their $30B remittances are uncertain too, and that has long been the lifeblood of every Government’s financing. At the same time the prolonged lockdown of the economy has rendered millions destitute, unable to survive on what support they get from Government (assuming they receive any).

    All these add up to a not-so-positive environment for the Government, not helped in any way by missteps in the PNP leadership and the continuing “joke” that is the leadership of the DOH.

    Imagine layering onto the Anti-Terror Bill and its innocuous looking provisions.

    Indeed, on its face, the Anti-Terror Bill appears harmless except to budding terrorists and their mothers. The bill states outright in its Section 2 on Declaration of Policy that “the State shall uphold the basic rights and fundamental liberties of the people as enshrined in the Constitution” and repeats that “the respect for human rights shall be absolute and protected at all times.”

    There’s more: its Section 31 provides for penalties for the violation of the rights of detainees, and Section 33 penalizes the use of torture or coercion in investigation.

    And then there’s Section 4 which explicitly states that the definition of terrorism “shall not include advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action, and other similar exercises of civil and political rights.” But there’s this qualification: Which are not intended to cause death or serious physical harm to a person, to endanger a person’s life, or to create serious risk to public safety. (Emphasis mine).

    Not intended. Hmmm. Who is to judge that? The clause immediately called to mind the slogans I have been hearing since I was a grade school student in UP in the 1960s:

    “Marcos: Hitler, Diktador, Tuta. BAGSAK!” “IBAGSAK” sounds ominous: surely anything you wish to bring down may in the process “cause death or serious physical harm to a person or even create serious risk to public safety.” So, does that make shouting “IBAGSAK” now a terrorist act?

    I suppose the activists will have to be content with “Tuta?” But clearly not of the Americans this time.

    Thus we go back to the “guarantee” – that the law will not be interpreted to cover “advocacy, protest, dissent” and the like. Seems to me that shouting “IBAGSAK” falls outside that guarantee, yes?

    Recently I posted this on Facebook: “Two things we must always be overprotective of: Civil Liberties and Public Funds.” If one truly understands the principles underlying Constitutional democracy which upholds the Bill of Rights and embraces the principles behind the Universal Declaration of Human Rights then that post was self explanatory.

    Unfortunately it should be obvious to one and all that when people are in power – even as temps because that’s what they are in a democratic society like ours – they forget (I am kindly assuming they know) the underlying principles and rationale behind Constitutional law as a means to balance State power. To them, every criticism is an attack and every critic is an enemy — tagging those who oppose the Anti-Terror Bill as terrorists, but in so doing effectively proving the point of the criticism.

    Worse, they begin to think and act like Louis XIV, he and his famous “L’etat c’est moi.”

    At least the French had the good sense to behead the royals. In a democracy you do this via the ballot box.

    Which is why we should spend the next 23 months doing a citizenship refresher.