Press Release
July 28, 2006


CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY -- Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said the opposition acknowledges the need for an Anti-Terrorism Act but it will have to pass through the proverbial eye of the needle as the Senate tries to remove objectionable provisions and to ensure safeguards against violations of human rights and even curtailment of the freedom of the press.

Pimentel said he is deeply worried over the effects of the administration-sponsored anti-terrorism legislation on innocent people who are being harassed by the authorities and powerful individuals just because they adhere to ideas entirely different from those that are accepted by the establishment.

Nonetheless, he said there is definitely a need for legislation to combat the sophisticated methods that terrorists employ to harm the innocent.

But everyone, especially the members of the media are called upon to help see to it that the law on terrorism that comes out of Congress must not infringe upon our basic freedoms in the name of the fight against terrorism, the senator from Mindanao said at the induction of the 2006 board of trustees of the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) in Cagayan de Oro City.

Pimentel said that the government will continue its attempts to muzzle the press as the country remains mired in a political turmoil due to the unresolved question over the legitimacy of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Today, press freedom is being subjected to assault by powerful elements in the country, he said.

He bewailed that crusading journalists are being eliminated as enemies of the state and as of the last count 48 media practitioners have already been killed since the start of the Arroyo presidency in 2001.

As the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act is now being debated in the halls of the Senate, Pimentel said it is important for the PPI and other media organizations and concerned citizens groups to monitor the shape and form that this legislations will take.

He said the senators would welcome the views of members of the journalism profession on the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act on arrests without warrants, surreptitious wiretapping, scrutinizing e-mails and other private communications and even private bank accounts by government agents.

Perhaps, it would do the PPI well to put their collective heads together and map out suggestions on how the press will handle matters involving issues on terrorism under present laws and the rights of our people under the projected anti-terrorism legislation, Pimentel said.

Pimentel said the PPI proved its mettle when it publicly denounced Presidential Proclamation 101 last February as an immediate threat to press freedom in the country.

The PPI, under the leadership of Jake Macasaet of Malaya came out with a blistering pooled editorial reproving the government for curtailing press freedom and for using martial law tactics without the formality of declaring martial law, he said.

Despite the attempts of powerful elements to silence media people by the use of the gun, Pimentel said he still believes that the pen is mightier than the sword.

For as long as we have journalists in the mold of present trustees of the PPI, the truth that comes out in the written and oral reports of the countrys journalists will in the end prove stronger from the power that emanates from the barrel of a gun, he said.

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