“There is no place for politics in the fight against terrorism. Any moral government must clearly state this. The fight against terrorism is a continuing struggle that will endure for years to come,” Jose Antonio “Ka Pep” Goitia, LIPI Secretary General, said in a statement.
He said the methods to inflict violence “are becoming more sophisticated and lethal and as these threats evolve, our government should be able to counter with the necessary tools to suppress or prevent this from happening. This starts with the ATA.”
The second day of oral arguments at the high court, Goitia said, “was very much like the previous week.”
The petitioners’ arguments revolved on “unfounded fears” that the law will curtail freedom of speech, abuse of human rights and the assumed vagueness of the law, sends a chilling effect on a person “because he doesn’t know if the next word he will say will be criminal or mark him as a terrorist,” he added.
“The chilling effect argument presupposes the law will stifle dissent. It seems that they (petitioners’ lawyers) failed to see for the nth time that this is protected under our Bill of Rights and the ATA,” Goitia said.
The petitioners, he said, continued to focus their appeal on the definition of terrorism under Section 4 of the ATA as “vague” by discounting the purpose being taken into account and what context the act enumerated in (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e) of Section 4 were committed by the person. Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo stressed this point, the LIPI chief noted.
“What they fail to again see is our definition of terrorism, though not verbatim, is the same as the definitions of the United Nations and other countries leading the fight against international terror. What they also failed to see is that we are a member of the United Nations and as a member State, we are obligated to abide by the rules and laws of the international body,” he said.
The UN General Assembly has addressed international terrorism by developing a normative framework that identifies terrorism as a problem common to all member states, and by encouraging concerted governmental action to develop more specific national and international instruments to address it, Goitia said.
“The solutions proposed, always within the framework of respect for international law and cooperation between states, which is the cornerstone of the Charter, have been gradually strengthened to the point that they have become obligatory as the scope and deadliness of terrorism continue to grow,” he added.
Goitia noted that in his Madrid address on 19 March 2005, then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan presented a comprehensive, concrete strategy for the United Nations to the participants in the International Summit of Democracy, Terrorism and Security.
Annan began by saying that terrorism “is a threat to all States, to all peoples, which can strike anytime, anywhere. It is a direct attack on the core values the United Nations stands for: the rule of law; the protection of civilians; mutual respect between people of different faiths and cultures; and peaceful resolution of conflicts.”
The Secretary-General, the LIPI official added, identified five key elements of a United Nations strategy in the fight against terrorism: “First, to dissuade disaffected groups from choosing terrorism as a tactic to achieve their goals; Second, to deny terrorists the means to carry out their attacks; Third, to deter States from supporting terrorists; Fourth, to develop State capacity to prevent terrorism; and Fifth, to defend human rights in the struggle against terrorism.”
“Now, are we to believe that our government haphazardly created a law that does not define the engagement against terror acts? That our government will be irresponsible when implementing the law as portrayed by the petitioners? That the law is vague and will pose a threat to civil and political rights?” Goitia said.
The losers of this exercise, he said, are the Filipino people if the intention of the petitioners is to politicize the ATA by attempting to convince the Supreme Court to declare the law unconstitutional.
“I have said this before. Haven’t the petitioners recognized that Mindanao is now a mecca of transnational terrorism in Southeast Asia? ISIS claimed the islands of Southern Philippines as its East Asia province and turned the place into a bootcamp co-opting locals to join their cause,” Goitia said.
The goal of this Islamist network is to establish a hardline, fundamentalist caliphate in several Southeast Asian countries that includes Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, the southern Malay province of Thailand and Mindanao, he noted.
ISIS was responsible for the siege of Marawi leaving more than 180 government soldiers dead and thousands injured. The city was reduced into rubble and countless of its citizens displaced, Goitia said.
Over the years, he said radical Islamist groups and Islamist separatist forces in the Philippines have carried out major bombings against civilians and civilian property, mostly in the southern regions of the country around Mindanao, Basilan, Jolo and other nearby islands.
“Justice Marvic Leonen pointed to several instances of these attacks in his interpellation with lawyer Algamar Latiph,” Goitia said. “Perhaps if the petitioners will take off their blinders, they will notice our country has suffered enough in the hands of extremists and groups sowing terror.”
“Ask the people in Marawi, Basilan and other places in the South. Ask the parents of the children who died when they were forced into battle by the CPP-NPA against our government forces,” he added.
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