Terrorized by the Anti-Terrorism Law?

Republic Act 9372, which takes effect this coming Sunday (15 July 2007), is often referred to as the “Anti-Terror Law” or “Anti-Terrorism Law”. As will be seen in the text of the law, however, this law is properly known as the “Human Security Act of 2007.”

By this time, you’ve heard of the numerous opinions or criticisms against this law. R.A. 9372 provides for three elements or requisites for an act to be considered as “terrorism”. The 3 elements are:

1. An act sows and creates a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace;
2. The purpose is to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand; and
3. The act is punishable under any of the following provisions of the Revised Penal Code:

1. Article 122 (Piracy in General and Mutiny in the High Seas or in the Philippine Waters);
2. Article 134 (Rebellion or Insurrection);
3. Article 134-a (Coup d‘Etat), including acts committed by private persons;
4. Article 248 (Murder);
5. Article 267 (Kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention);
6. Article 324 (Crimes Involving Destruction,

or under

1. Presidential Decree No. 1613 (The Law on Arson);
2. Republic Act No. 6969 (Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Waste Control Act of 1990);
3. Republic Act No. 5207, (Atomic Energy Regulatory and Liability Act of 1968);
4. Republic Act No. 6235 (Anti-Hijacking Law);
5. Presidential Decree No. 532 (Anti-piracy and Anti-highway Robbery Law of 1974); and,
6. Presidential Decree No. 1866, as amended (Decree Codifying the Laws on Illegal and Unlawful Possession, Manufacture, Dealing in, Acquisition or Disposition of Firearms, Ammunitions or Explosives)

Now, let’s consider the settled rule that criminal laws are strictly construed in favor of the accused. Let’s say someone bombs a building or a bus, but doesn’t give any demand whatsoever. We could even go further and say that there’s a demand, but the demand is directed against a bus company, for it to pay “protection money” so that its buses won’t be targeted. If you go by the definition under RA 9372, could you say that the act is NOT terrorism because the purpose is NOT “to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand”?

If someone is charged under this law, but is acquitted after trial (most probably on the absense of the element discussed above), that person is entitled to the payment of damages in the amount of Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (PhP 500,000.00) for every day that he or she has been detained or deprived of liberty or arrested without a warrant as a result of such an accusation. With the high level of unemployment in our country, that may seem very interesting to some.

Anyway, there appears to be a widespread apprehension on abuses brought about by the impending effectivity of the law. The fear is not on the law itself, but seems to arise from the level of [dis]trust on the ones who are tasked to implement it. However, with the apparent loophole discussed above, are you still afraid of the “Human Security Act of 2007”?

(You can read the full text of the law here. This law had been erroneously cited as R.A. 9327, instead of 9372)

9 comments

  1. I feel that the nature of the elements are so general although I just could not pinpoint why. How can we proved efficiently such point as coercion against the government when a bomb just exploded and the suspects demand nothing; even if he is apprehended, and deny to high heavens—then the case won’t be terrorism and would be not liable for such and may even walk away a millionaire.

    One thing I like though is the provision for damages, a positive innovation even though I find it very superflous in amount. But it’s a good start.

    I remember asking my law professor in criminal law why a certain prisoner, freed for finally being found guilty after ten years of imprisonment, receives nothing or very measly amount. I thought the gove’t should be responsible enough to compensate for lost years and incomes.

    I hope this time, or in the future, gov’t wont have to be sued—as it could not be sued—in order that mistaken accusation could be reprieved properly.

  2. Major Tom,

    Maybe the purpose of the generality is to give the courts sufficient discretion on this matter. This is not the first time that the courts have to interpret the meaning of each element (it appears that the 2nd element could be further broken down into 2). The problem, really, is the high level of distrust on the ones who are entrusted (pun intended) to enforce it. Could we venture to say that this is even “better” than the US version?

    Anyway, the provision on damages is apparently an exception to the doctrine that the State could not be sued.

  3. It’s very naive of people to think that the safeguard of this law is the P500,000 fee that will be entitled to the person wrongly accused of terrorism. Don’t you think that IF the person was indeed found to be not guilty, the law enforcers would not do something about it?

    Think about it… They’ll be paying more than half a million for a mistake like that! So what do you think would most of them do in this situation then? I’ll say: they’ll either plant evidences to implicate the person -OR WORSE- they’ll silence that person forever…

    Not everything is black and white in this world…

  4. Renee, I must agree with you that not everything in this world is black and white. There are gray areas even in law. I also agree with you about the possibility of the worst-case scenario, something which may have happened already in the past. It may happen – with or without the Human Security Law. Everything is subject to abuse.

    Of course, the 500,000 is not the main safeguard. The safeguards are stated somewhere else – like the requirements and the criminal sanctions. Now, whether those safeguards are sufficient is an entirely different matter. Maybe you could help us discuss why this law is unconstitutional or invalid, and what are the objectionable provisions. You could do that here or at the other forum:

    http://bar.attyatwork.com/viewtopic.php?t=72

  5. hi atty fred!

    the last time i was here was when the results came out this year…

    by the way atty, i just dropped by to make a shoutout…

    I am a lex officer in a law school here in Cebu (USJR) and i was told that Sen. Biazon will be in our school this Aug 10th to discuss in a forum about Human Security Act…

    open for all interested!…more power to you atty!

    sha

  6. Hi Sha, I’m glad you dropped by. I’m sure the discussion will be a fruitful one. Perhaps you’d be gracious enough to give us a summary of what Sen. Biazon has to say on this matter.

    (Off topic: I’ll be going to Cebu within this week, so maybe you guys could treat me at Larxian =) Anyway, the discussion on the Bar Exams and the results are also here – http://bar.attyatwork.com. I’d like to take this opportunity to invite you and your friends to share and make the forum a helpful site for everyone. Thanks.)

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