Press Release
July 6, 2007


Journalists cannot be compelled under the Human Security Act (Republic Act 9372) to reveal to law enforcement authorities their sources of information in connection with reports about terrorist activities they write about.

This was pointed out today by Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Nene" Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) who authored this particular provision, as part of several amendments in the HSA that were adopted at his suggestion to prevent violations of civil liberties.

Pimentel said lawyers and doctors likewise cannot be compelled to reveal their communications with their clients and patients whose involvement in terrorism activities are being investigated by the authorities.

Explaining why media practitioners should not be required to reveal their sources of information, Pimentel invoked section 4 of Article III (Bill of Rights) of the Constitution which provides: No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.

"In fact, there is more reason to exempt the correspondences, messages and records of journalists from being monitored, bugged and recorded or subpoenaed for use under legal compunction in the investigation or terrorist trials than the communications between doctors and patients," Pimentel said.

The minority leader also cited the concern of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the United States that if any journalist strongly and legitimately suspects that his or her communications with a sources are being intercepted by a third party, that journalist simply cannot promise confidentiality in good faith to an international source when that source could face torture or death if the communication is revealed.

Another major amendment to the HSA adopted at Pimentel's suggestion was the reduction of the period of detention to terror suspects to not more than three days if they were arrested without court warrants or if they are not formally charged.

Originally, the maximum period for detaining terrorist suspects without a court warrant was for 15 days and later reduced to five days.

Justifying the shortened detention period, Pimentel pointed out that the Constitution, under Article VII section 18 provides that during the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, any person arrested or detained for rebellion shall be judicially charged within three days, otherwise he shall be released.

"The three-day period during which a person may be detained without charges even during a rebellion or invasion, is a constitutional demarcation line that must not be breached," he said.

Pimentel said that a related amendment would require law enforcers to immediately bring before any judge, Commission on Human Rights official or justice of the Sandiganbayan or Court of Appeals any person arrested by them on charges or suspicion of terrorism before the suspect is detained.

He said the requirement of immediately bringing an arrested terrorist suspect to the presence of a judicial magistrate will discourage abuse or physical maltreatment of the suspect.

Other major amendments:

1. Compensating persons wrongfully arrested and detained on anti-terrorism charges in the amount of P500,000 for every day of detention.

2. Creating a grievance committee headed by the Ombudsman before which people harassed by law enforcers on charges of terrorism may complain and get redress for their grievances. The grievance committee will have their divisions ? one each ? in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Pimentel said he has introduced nearly a hundred amendments to the Human Security Act, backed by some 200 pages of studies, to make sure that the bill will not be used as an instrument of terror against the people.

"We worked on the Human Security Act very assiduously and meticulously because I think, in all honesty, that it is the most terrifying piece of legislation ever submitted to the hall of Congress," he said.

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