Press Release
October 16, 2006

Speech of Sen. Jamby Madrigal on State Terrorism delivered
before the World Council of Churches, Geneva, Switzerland

Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters:

On the eve of my departure for Geneva, one of the leading newspapers in my country, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, published an editorial.

It was addressed to the public but also to senators such as myself, who have been called upon to deliberate on a proposed anti-terrorism law. It said that any such law should be of limited duration and subject to an annual review and reenactment by Congress, just as we would like to see a genuine system for congressional oversight over the Armed Forces and the police to discourage abuses.

The moderate appeal of that newspaper reflects the opinions of many millions of concerned Filipinos. In the name of fighting terrorism we have seen human, civil, and political rights set aside in order to confer upon governments unprecedented powers over those they view as their enemies.

The government of my country wants increased powers, too. The government of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is insisting on the passage of an oppressive anti-terrorism law which would hand it vast powers over my fellow citizens. To the cautionary charge that such a law might become another instrument of a far bigger terror and worse form of terror that is, of State terrorism, President Arroyo and her cabinet, and her allies in our legislature, insist on denying it might ever be so.

But it will be so, because the terrifying provisions of the law are there for all to see and read.

According to the provisions of the proposed legislation, there is no clear definition of who a terrorist is. A person may be labeled as a terrorist by reason solely of his religious or political belief. The bill's definition of terrorism is too broad and too sweeping, covering many crimes that are already punishable under existing laws. The proposed law blurs the distinction between real acts of terrorism and ordinary crimes. Worse, it can be interpreted to include all acts in pursuit of legitimate dissent. In a time of intense crisis and undisguised political repression, the law can and will be used to illegalize the legitimate activities of critics and opponents of the current administration.

Furthermore, the proposed legislation creates a new set of crimes. It grants a disturbing freedom of movement and discretion to the Philippine military.

Philippine police, military or any government law officer, may engage in wire tapping for a period of one hundred twenty (120) days without incurring any criminal liability. This may be done through an ex parte written application before our Regional Trial Court to be permitted, and based only on reasonable grounds. The written application and the order of the court is declared as classified information.

Mere membership in any organization declared as a terrorist organization will become punishable by law. And any legitimate exercise of ones right to appeal for the redress of grievances has the potential, under the proposed law, to be considered terrorism, solely by reason of the membership of a suspect in an organization, association or group of persons, labeled a terrorist group by the government.

Any Filipino or foreigner is liable to arrest and detention without judicial warrant of arrest for a period of 15 days. The police, military and government law officer will not incur any criminal liability for abuses or false arrests.

Bank deposits, accounts and records may be examined through an ex-parte written application by the police and military officers before the Regional Trial Court. The written application and order of the court allowing such examination is considered classified information. The bank examination may be undertaken for a period of one hundred twenty (120) days.

This panoply of powers, Mrs. Arroyo argues, is a matter of national life and death and therefore, she must enjoy these powers. But as the editorial I mentioned in the beginning pointed out,

We must bear in mind that the administration trying to panic Congress into passing the law is the same administration that proclaimed the February 2004 bombing of the Superferry 14 as an accident. Indeed, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said it was the work of pranksters. She and other officials admitted only that it was what everyone thought it was -- the countrys worst terrorist attack -- in October, after she had claimed victory in the May 2004 elections. Yet four weeks after the bombing, Redondo Cain Dellosa, alias Arnulfo Alvarado, had been captured by investigators and confessed he had planted the bomb where it would inflict the greatest number of casualties. The Abu Sayyaf claimed credit, but the government laughed it off -- until after the elections. Even then, the President claimed six suspects had been caught, though the two masterminds evaded apprehension.

Most of us here can recall when Pope Paul VI told the United Nations, If you want to be brothers, let the arms fall from your hands.''

And we remember how he made that emphatic, and immortal appeal, "No more war, war never again! Never one against the other."

His hope, his entreaty, is our hope and our earnest prayer; but it is nowhere near being accomplished reality either in his time or in ours. But Jamais la guerre! That is what he prayed; and it is what we must pray and work to achieve. Our work begins with speaking forcefully, and in a unified manner, against such draconian laws and their approval.

Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, Jamais le terrorisme! Never again, the terrorism of the state against its own!

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