Press Release
February 26, 2020

Explanation of No Vote of
Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan on Senate Bill No. 1083:

26 February 2020

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues:

First, we thank Senator Ping Lacson for his diligence in shepherding this measure, and for his patience in answering all our questions with regard to it. We recognize the hours of reading, research, and interviews that went in the crafting, sponsorship, and finally defense of the measure.

However, this representation fears that the amendments to the Human Security Act right before us may be abused as it will, among others, allow law enforcers or military personnel to place individuals and organizations under surveillance; compel telcos to divulge their calls and messages; arrest these people without warrant; and detain them for an extended period of 14 days.

The measure also allows regional trial courts to outlaw an organization as terrorist at the requests of even foreign and supra-national jurisdictions. It likewise removes the compensation for persons wrongfully detained.

And at a time when legitimate critics and democratic dissent are being attacked, the Human Security Act could be likened to a certain extent the anti-subversion law during martial law, and may be used against critics and opposition leaders.

Certain questions now come to mind: Can the law be used against democratic opposition leaders? Can opposition political parties be outlawed and tagged as terrorist organizations? Some may say this is farfetched and most certainly some will say this is not the intent of the law.

Allow me to bring us back in time during the martial law years to remind us of how the law was used to go after the democratic opposition leaders.

  • The Administration then claimed that it had declared martial law in response to the "communist threat" posed by the newly-founded Communist Party of the Philippines, and the sectarian "rebellion" of the Mindanao Independence Movement.

  • Opposition figures of the time, including Senators Lorenzo Tañada, Jose W. Diokno, Jovito Salonga, Senator Ninoy Aquino, felt the administration was exaggerating these threats, using them as a convenient excuse to consolidate power and extend its tenure beyond the two presidential terms (allowed) by the 1935 Constitution.

Allow us to further go back to a criminal case filed against opposition leader Senator Salonga, who at that time was executive vice president of the Liberal Party and eventually became its president, in the case of G.R. No. L-59524 dated February 18, 1985, against respondents presiding judges (in) Quezon City, its fiscal, and two officers of the Armed Forces.

These key facts I am to cite, reinforce the well-founded fear of opposition leaders today of being persecuted under the Human Security Act. Given the current authoritarian climate, we face a well-grounded fear that it may be repeated.

To cite some of the facts of that case:

- A series of bombings occurred in Metro Manila from August to October 1980. After a bombing incident on September 6, 1980, military and police authorities charged Philippine-born American citizen Victor Burns Lovely Jr. with subversion, illegal possession of explosives, and damage to property.

- Former Senator Salonga was implicated in these bombings because:

  • Found in Mr. Lovely's possession were pictures taken in May 1980 at a party of former Congressman Raul Daza held at the latter's residence in Los Angeles, California, showing Sen. Salonga and his wife with other guests, including Mr. Lovely.

  • After another bombing incident (on) September 12, 1980, the brother of Mr. Lovely, Romeo, was presented in a television press conference. In his interview, Romeo said that he had driven Mr. Lovely to Sen. Salonga's house twice in August 1980.

- Arrest, search, and seizure orders (ASSOs) were issued against persons implicated by Mr. Lovely in the series of bombings.

- On October 21, 1980, military officials went to Sen. Salonga's room at the Manila Medical Center to issue an ASSO, which however did not specify the charges or charge against him.

  • Sen. Salonga's lawyers, for some time, were not permitted to visit him in the hospital room.

  • On November 2, 1980, Sen. Salonga was transferred, against his objections, to an isolation room without windows in an army prison camp at Fort Bonifacio. Sen. Salonga was not informed why he was transferred and detained, nor was he ever investigated or questioned by any military or civil authority.

  • On November 27, 1980, Sen. Salonga was released from military custody and placed under house arrest "still without the benefit of any investigation or charges."

- After four months of being detained, charges for subversion, among others, were filed against Sen. Salonga.

All these, while Sen. Salonga had serious health problems.

- On March 6, 1981, and I quote the court records, Salonga was allowed to leave the country for, among other things, the possible removal of his left eye to save his right eye.

- It must be recalled that Sen. Salonga almost died as one of the principal victims of the dastardly bombing of the Liberal Party rally at Plaza Miranda on August 20, 1971.

- To quote further from the records and the ruling of the court, Sen. Salonga has limited use of his one remaining hand and arms, is completely blind in the left eye, and has scar-like formations in the remaining right eye. He is totally deaf in the right ear and partially deaf in the left ear.

- Further quoting our court records, Sen. Salonga was arrested at the Manila Medical Center while hospitalized for bronchial asthma.

  • When arrested, he was not informed of the nature of the charges against him. Neither was counsel allowed to talk to him until the Supreme Court intervened and issued an order directing that his lawyers be permitted to visit him (Ordoñez v. Gen. Fabian Ver, et al., G.R. No. 55345, October 28, 1980).

  • Only after four months of detention was Sen. Salonga informed for the first time of the nature of the charges against him. After the preliminary investigation, Sen. Salonga moved to dismiss the complaint but it was denied.

Supreme Court records in the case of Salonga vs Cruz Paño again ruled in 1985, and I quote:

- The respondents admit that no evidence was presented directly linking petitioner Salonga to actual acts of violence or terrorism.

- Further quoting the court's ruling: "There is no proof of his direct participation in any overt acts of subversion."

- "Guilt by visit or guilt by association" theory is too tenuous a basis to conclude that Senator Salonga was a leader or mastermind of the bombings.

- He was indicted simply because some plotters, masquerading as visitors, have somehow met in his house.

- And court records on the testimony of Victor Lovely against petitioner Salonga is full of inconsistencies, the court said.

  • Senator Salonga and Atty. Renato Tañada could not have whispered to one another because the petitioner is almost totally deaf, quoting from the ruling.

  • Lovely could not have met Senator Salonga at the Manglapus party in Washington D.C. in 1977 because Sen. Salonga left for the United States only on November of 1978.

  • The pictures of Sen. Salonga and Mr. Lovely at Raul Daza's birthday, to quote again the court ruling, in Los Angeles is not proof of conspiracy. Politicians have their photos taken with many people.

- Sen. Salonga "invoke[d] the constitutionally protected right to life and liberty guaranteed by the due process clause, alleging that no prima facie case has been established to warrant the filing of an information for subversion against him."

The litany of lies and fabrications by the prosecution in that case revealed the extent of abuse of law enforcers inflicted upon an ailing opposition leader and former senator.

Our fear with an Administration that has jailed an incumbent senator on a case whose key witnesses are convicted drugs lords, that has repeatedly warned about imposing martial law all over the country, that has in fact imposed martial law in Mindanao under what we continue to believe to be questionable constitutional grounds.

These instances are more than simply déjà vu, they are more like foreboding.

The proposed new definition of terrorism is vague and encompassing, making it open to abuse in that the simplest mobilization or common crimes can be framed by errant law enforcers as acts of terrorism.

The prolonged detention is an impingement of rights and liberty. Why 14 days? If security officials and law enforcers are doing their job, why will it take them long to file a case? Or, is the practice of arrest and detain now, produce or invent evidence later still prevalent, as it was when opposition leader Jovy Salonga was arrested, detained, and charged in 1981?

The current law is not perfect, and we, in Congress, should be working continuously to make it work for the people.

The amendments, however, are worrisome and could make the Human Security Act an even worse tool for repression, instead of an instrument for thwarting terrorists.

In closing, ang batas, dapat proteksyon ng mamamayan. Proteksyon sa mga pagmamalabis at maling paggamit nito. Kaya kapag nagkamali sa pagpapatupad nito, dapat may managot, para hindi na maulit, para hindi na abusuhin ang batas, para hindi na pagmalabisan ang karaniwang tao.

Dahil sa karaniwang taong walang poder at walang kapit, maaaring maging terror ang batas.

Laws must be rights-based and must allow civil and political rights to flourish.

Without respect for rights, there can never be security. Kung walang paggalang sa karapatan, walang seguridad.

Respectfully, I vote no to the measure.

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