Press Release
December 20, 2006


The minority bloc in the Senate has proposed that Filipino citizens who commit terrorist acts should be prosecuted and punished with penalties under the Revised Penal Code. But they will be punished under the proposed Anti-Terrorism Law, if they will pursue such offenses in collaboration or conspiracy with a foreigner or an agency of a foreign power or organization.

This is one of the 59 amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Bill presented by Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) during the floor deliberations on the measure under the sponsorship of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile.

Amendment No. 3, proposed by the minority bloc, provides that any foreigner or agent of a foreign power or a foreign organization who commits such offenses shall be declared guilty of the crime of terrorism and shall be punished with life imprisonment.

The terrorist acts committed by a Filipino under this bill are already punished by the Revised Penal Code and other penal laws. He should, therefore, not be punished under the Anti-Terrorism legislation. There is, in fact, no need to enact an Anti-Terrorism Law to punish the acts, Pimentel explained.

Among the terrorist acts that are already punishable under the Revised Penal Code and other penal legislations are murder, coup d etat, arson, rebellion, illegal possession of firearms and highway robbery.

Pimentel pointed out that the administration-initiated Anti-Terrorism Bill is patterned after the Patriot Act which was hastily enacted by the United States Congress after the terrorist bombings in New York and Washington D.C. on Sept. 11, 2001.

However, he said the Patriot Act is now being subjected to a lot of criticisms even by American legislators who had previously supported it. For instance, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), on Sept. 17, 2006 asserted: To do what the Bush administration wanted to do in the war against terrorism would mean short term benefits at long-term costs.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed so many complaints of human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of the Patriot Act, such as illegal abductions, detention, disappearances, torture of prisoners and wiretapping.

In India, its Prevention of Terrorism Act was repealed in September, 2004 due to rampant human rights violations and the fact that most of the criminal acts attributed to terrorists are already punishable under existing penal laws.

It is precisely to avoid repeating the error of the US Patriot Act and the anti-terrorism acts of other countries that we have been advocating the dahan-dahan or cautious approach in the crafting of our own law against terrorism, Pimentel said.

The lone senator from Mindanao said there is valid basis for treating Filipino citizens who violate the Anti-Terrorism Act less harshly or differently from the way a foreign terrorist would be treated.

Pimentel stressed that the amendment does not exculpate a Filipino citizen who, by himself or herself violates the Revised Penal Code or any other law. The amendment, he said, merely makes him or her punishable under those laws, not under the anti-terror legislation and the penalty will be that under the Revised Penal Code or existing penal laws.

The amendment will preclude the use of the anti-terror legislation as a tool of harassment by the powers-that-be against those who may be suspected of or charged with the crime of terrorism. Pimentel said.

By adopting the amendment, he said Filipinos will be spared from suffering additional burdens that accompany charges for the commission of the crime of terrorism.

These additional burdens, he said, include: 1. arrest and detention without a judicial warrant; 2. surveillance and tapping of telephones and invasion against ones right to privacy in his or her home and ones communications; and 3. the seizure, sequestration and freezing of ones financial and other resources.

The idea is to prevent the police, the law enforcement officials, the prosecutor and their patrons from gambling with the liberties and fortunes of people they believe are terrorists even if the evidence does not warrant their prosecution as such, Pimentel said.

Amendment No. 4, put forward by the minority, upholds the right of innocent suspects to claim damages for unproven charges of terrorism.

The amendment provides that upon acquittal, any person who is accused of terrorism shall be entitled to the payment of damages in the amount of not less than P1 million for every day that he or she had been detained or deprived of liberty or arrested without warrant as a result of such an accusation.

This will discourage frivolous accusations and make certain that only air-tight indictments of terrorism should be brought before the courts and only such charges should be used as a basis for the detention of persons accused of terrorism for justifying the seizure, sequestration and freezing of his or her properties, Pimentel explained.

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