Press Release
Speech of Sen. Nene Pimentel, Senate Minority Leader
11th Integrated Bar of the Philippines National Convention
at Cagayan de Oro City
March 29, 2007


There are two things I want to share with you this afternoon.

The first has to do with the recently approved Human Security Act. The second is about the elections.

The reason I limit my talk to these two topics is that either or both have the potential to wreck havoc on the lives of our people in the short run.

Improperly implemented, the Human Security Act of 2007 could be an instrument of State terror to oppress our people especially the less connected.

Improperly conducted, the elections in May 2007 could trigger an upheaval in the country.

The Human Security Act

The Human Security Act was signed by the President as Republic Act No. 9372 on March 6, 2007.

The Act now has 62 sections. As Senate Bill No. 2137, it had only 53 sections.

I submitted over a hundred amendments some in written form, others verbally made on the floor of the Senate. About 97% of the amendments was accepted the amendments are now embodied in the Act.

In effect, there is hardly any section that does not bear the imprint of the amendments that I introduced.

Security & Liberty

I will not mention all of them. We do not have the time for that. I will just say that all the amendments I introduced are designed to make the Act provide security for our people and country against terrorism but at the same time uphold the rights and secure the liberties of our people.

Nonetheless, the Act has some inherent defects. For example, it does not define what terrorism is. It merely makes it illegal for persons to commit six offenses already punished in the Revised Penal Code* and six other crimes already penalized in special laws on martial law decrees* if done to sow panic in a community. These criminal acts are punished in the HSA under two categories:

1. The crime of terrorism, and 2. The crime of conspiracy to commit terrorism.

Both are punished with a single and indivisible penalty of 40 years of imprisonment.

During the debates on the Bill, I argued that there was no need to punish again what is already penalized in existing laws. To no avail.

Some apprehensions

To confess, I am apprehensive that some sections may be abused by the powerful and used as instruments of State terrorism against the powerless. Here in a birds-eye view are Sections that may unsettle the people because they allow law enforcement agents:

1. To place a terror suspect under surveillance (Section 7); 2. To arrest and detain terror suspects without warrants (Section 18); 3. To examine a terror suspects bank deposits and financial papers (Section 27); and 4. To seize, sequester and freeze bank deposits, financial papers and properties of all kinds or nature of terror suspects (Section 39).

Let us discuss them briefly one at a time.

I. Under Section 7, when the law enforcement agents place a terror suspect under surveillance, they may use the most sophisticated gadgets available in the market like the so-called Magic Lantern and the Carnivore to search the suspects written communications and tap his or her (verbal) conversations. And they can do the surveillance without the person being made aware in the slightest of the search and tapping going on in the innermost recesses of his or her home or office or places of leisure, even.

Perhaps, one saving grace is that the law enforcement agents cannot simply do the surveillance by their own authority and discretion.

Judicial approval

They need judicial approval to begin the surveillance. And not just any judge would do. They have to apply for permission to do so with the Supreme Court designated-division of Court of Appeals. Not only that. The basis for the authority to surveill a person is probable cause, a phrase, that you and I know, has legal meaning. The applicant requesting for the authority and his or her witnesses need to be examined personally by the Justices concerned so that its reasonableness and necessity are duly established.

I introduced two safeguards here: 1. The permission should be secured from the proper division of the Court of Appeals, and, 2. That probable cause should be established as basis for granting the authority.

II. Under Section 18, a terror suspect may be placed under arrest or detention without warrant.

That sounds alarming. It would even alarm lawyers more to know that when the anti-terror bill was being crafted, there were proposals from elements of the AFP to grant soldiers the power to detain suspects without warrant for up to 120 days. The PNP suggested a lower period, 90 days. When the Committee submitted its report to the Senate, the period was reduced to 15 days. During the debates, Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago and Frank Drilon successfully reduced the period of warrantless detention to 5 days.

3-day maximum

On my turn, I convinced the Senate that the Constitution has fixed a maximum of 3 days for warrantless arrests. I pointed out that even when the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is suspended in times of insurrection or rebellion, the maximum number of days for which a person may be detained is three days (Article 7, Section 18, of the Constitution).

Immediate delivery

In addition, I introduced amendments that now require law enforcement agents to deliver the person of any terror suspect to judicial authorities immediately upon arrest before they are brought anywhere for interrogation or further detention.

The judicial authority need not have jurisdiction over the case for which the suspect had been arrested or over the place where the terrorist act might have been committed. All that is required is that the judicial authority holds office or resides nearest the place where the arrest took place.

III. Under Section 27, the bank accounts or financial papers of terror suspects may be examined. At first blush, perception may be created that the section unduly intrudes into the sacrosanct sphere of privacy.

In fairness, note that there is the requirement of judicial authorization, and, again, the basis is probable cause.

IV. Under Section 39, the law enforcement agents may seize, sequester and freeze the bank deposits, financial assets and properties of whatever nature of a person suspected of or charged with terror crimes. Read in isolation, the Section poses a threat to the Constitutional right of people to own property.

By itself, the section trumps, at least, three of a persons fundamental rights in the Constitution:

1. The right not to be deprived even momentarily, I would like to add - of property without due process of law (Article III, Section 1); 2. The right to the equal protection of the law (Article III, Section 1). Unlike suspected terror organizations whose properties may also be seized or sequestered but only after a court hearing (Section 17, HSA), there is no such trial requirement for a suspected individual terrorist; and 3. The right to be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved (Article III, Section 14, paragraph 2).

Under Section 39, the seizure, sequestration or freezing may be done at the stage where the person is merely suspected of or charged with but not yet convicted of terrorist crimes.

Need to harmonize

As the Human Security Act now stands, one way by which Section 39 may be harmonized with the requirement of the Constitution to uphold and respect the human rights and civil liberties of people is to read it in conjunction with the sections in Chapter VI, starting from Section 27 down to Section 38.

It seems to me that Section 27 Section 38 are the indispensable preconditions that make possible the implementation of Section 39.

Interpreted in that manner, there may be no need to resort to two other possible ways of dealing with Section 39: (1) Amend the Section and make it explicitly dependent on the compliance with the requirements of Sections 27 down to Section 38 or, (2) Repeal it totally.

Extraordinary Rendition

Theres a fifth item in the HSA that Id like to just mention for your information: The Act prohibits Extraordinary Rendition of terror suspects, accused or witnesses to other countries unless their human rights and right to counsel are first assured.

Extraordinary rendition as you know is a practice that has been resorted to by the US principally whereby a terror suspect, accused or witness is summarily arrested and deported to countries where the process of interrogation is not governed by the Geneva Convention or other applicable civilized rules. In other words, the person so renditioned may, then, be tortured or subjected to threats or intimidation to compel him or her to confess or reveal matters desired by the interrogators.

It is the intent of the HSA to ban extraordinary rendition in the country unless the human rights and civil liberties of the person concerned and his or her right to counsel are first guaranteed.

As we end this part of my discourse, let us remind ourselves of what the Romans of old used to say: Cave legem! Beware the law.

May Elections

Now, let us discuss briefly the May elections.

Elections in this country have always been a heated affair. People are brutalized in the process or even killed outright.

Under a weak government, it is too much to expect that bloodshed would be prevented during the electoral campaign. But we can probably help as lawyers to lessen the occasion for it or the cheating that people believe has become endemic to any electoral exercise.

City and Provincial Prosecutors

Present in this convention of the IBP are provincial and city prosecutors.

Under the election law, they are members of the Provincial or City Election Board of Canvassers.

At the provincial level, the Provincial Prosecutor sits with the Comelec Provincial Election Officer or senior lawyer of the regional Office of the Comelec as chair; the Provincial Superintendent of Schools. One representative each of the majority party and the dominant opposition make up the rest of the members.

At the city level, the City Prosecutor sits with the Comelec City Election Registrar or a Comelec lawyer as chair; the City Superintendent of Schools. One representative each of the majority party and the dominant opposition make up the rest of the members.


In two of my several experiences in national politics, one, in the 1995 senatorial elections, and second, in the presidential election of 2004, I gathered first hand information as to how election results were manipulated.

In both elections, the main manner by which the results were altered was by dagdag/bawas, that is, by adding votes to a candidate beneficiary or subtracting votes from a candidate victim. And the votes were usually added or reduced in the Certificates of Canvass that, in turn, were supposed to reflect the summary of votes coming from the precincts of every municipality or the barangays of every city.

The Certificates of Canvass are done by the members of the Provincial or City Board of Canvassers. It is on the basis of the Certificates of Canvass that the Comelec proclaims the winners in the senatorial elections and Congress in its capacity as the National Board of Canvassers proclaims the winner in the presidential race.

Protect integrity

Thus, the vital importance of protecting the integrity of the Certificates of Canvass and of their supporting documents.

I would like to request the prosecutors and the lawyer members of the local Boards of Canvassers to reflect accurately in their Certificates of Canvass the results of the elections that come their way for official action.

I do not to suggest that they do anything underhanded to favor the Genuine Opposition senatorial bets who, incidentally, include my son and namesake, AQUILINO PIMENTEL, or the administration candidates. I only ask that the prosecutors concerned would do their work pursuant to the Rule of Law.

Mindanao representation

Before I leave this point, may I advert to the fact that Mindanao needs good, if not the best, additional representation in the Senate.

As of now, out of 24 senators, 19 come from Luzon, 4 from Visayas, and 1 from Mindanao. Thats me.

No dynasty

Incidentally, please know that I am not batting for my sons candidacy because I want to defy any legal or moral standards. There is no law or moral rule that says that if you are the son of Nene Pimentel, 'thou shall not run for the Senate.' Neither is it my intention to start a dynasty to protect my personal interests.

I have no political interests to protect. As a public servant, my life is an open book. I do not need any member of my family to get into public office to save me from the penal consequences of any corruption or wrongdoing. Getting involved in corrupt deals or public misdeeds, by the way, is something I have avoided like a plague through all the years of my public service as a Constitutional Convention Delegate, City Mayor, Assemblyman, DBP Director, Cabinet Member, Chief Negotiator with the Moro rebels, Senate President, and, now as the Minority Leader of the Senate.

Dues paid

I have also paid my dues for standing up for the rights of our people even during the parlous years of martial law. As a consequence, I was imprisoned four times and thrown out of office twice without any rhyme or reason.

I mention this facet of my life only to assure you that in public service, I seek only the public good. And I guarantee that AQUILINO PIMENTEL will do likewise with the grace of the Almighty, with your vote and the help of our people. By the way, he also has a platform of government that I humbly suggest you read at your leisure. It is appended to the printed copy of this speech for easy reference.

But to go back to the general appeal that I am trying to make to the lawyer members of the Boards of Canvassers, may I respectfully remind them that their oaths as lawyers and as public officials demand that they perform their duties accurately and well.

If they do not discharge their duties faithfully, they would condemn not only themselves but also our people to suffer from the ill effects of misgovernment and misrule for years on end.

A race of heroes

But if they do their work according to the law, then, after the elections, we as a people can breathe easy and claim proudly before the world that we are not born to criminality or to be election cheats. But, that, we belong to a race that produced a Rizal, an Andres Bonifacio, a Gregorio del Pilar, a Ninoy Aquino, a Pepe Diokno, a Lorenzo Taada a people who value honor, dignity and decency in our lives to such a degree that we are willing to pay the supreme sacrifice whenever needed for the sake of God and country.

To conclude, let me sum up, the message of this talk:

1. As lawyers, we must safeguard the human rights and the fundamental liberties of our people even as the government implements the Human Security Act.* It is never right to sacrifice human rights and our basic freedoms in the guise of fighting terrorism, and

2. As lawyers, let us help keep the elections clean. If the elections are dishonest, we put bad people in government. And bad government would be a disaster waiting to explode in a societal upheaval from which nobody would emerge victorious.

It is good to remind ourselves that even good laws are only as good as they are implemented well by good people. And there is always a need for vigilance from the citizens and especially from us, as lawyers.

After all, as the anti-slavery proponent, Wendell Philipps said in 1852, "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."

God bless.


News Latest News Feed