The Philippines recently passed an anti terror law that includes the ability of police to hold a terror suspect for several days without charge. This is good, since often in the past suspects could not be picked up without evidence until they actually had proof of terror intent.

The UN is worried about this ability to hold someone without strong evidence of crime. But the real worry is that it places the implementation of the law under the executive branch of the government, not the Judiciary branch. Theoretically, it could be used to jail protesters against the government and political enemies under the guise of terrorism.

After all, this is a country where a Naval officer associated with a coup attempt last year (a plot that included the NPA linked communist left) has been elected as a Senator this year. You can see how such a law could be used for political ends.

President Arroyo hailed the passage of the law as a weapon against terrorist bombers that threaten the lives of Philippinos .

As the various Muslim sucessionist groups in the southern Philippines are gradually being killed or pacified, the remaining groups, which include bombmakers who have fled from Indonesia, are becoming a very real threat to the general population.

Giving police the ability to pick up such troublemakers for a few days without evidence will be handy for things like the upcoming ASEAN summit, where security is high and the police are worried if they wait for evidence of threats they’ll be too late. Hence the law, which allows them to isolate the suspects, at least for a time.

President Arroyo plans to use the “anti terror” law against “Communist rebels, religious extremists and rogue military and police elements who sow terror”…

Not on her list: Politicians whose private armies zap their political opponents and reporters who report on their corruption…oh well. These killings are business as usual in this area, and have little to do with the right and the left so don’t count.

And notice that part about “communist rebels”.

Yup. Up here the commies are still causing trouble. Every day brings reports of clashes with the military, or political assasinations of policemen or politicians by the NPA, or “extrajudicial killing” by unknown parties, believed to be off duty police and military.

This battle is the tip of the iceburg of the poor farmers who want to stop living in poverty. That is why the Anti terrorism law is worrying our left wing bishops.
Like all good liberation theology Catholics, they hate Gloria more than they worry about churches being destroyed by terrorists; and of course up here clergy are more likely to be shot by an extrajudicial killing than by an Abu Sayaf bomb, so they have a point.

The US has Special forces helping in the Muslim south, helping with development for those areas that agree to peace and helping to track the bad guys. But they aren’t fighting the communists in the north because they figure it is a local problem.
What is the answer? Well, given the poverty in the area, getting investment and decent paying jobs here instead of having to go to Saudi for a decent salary would help. But no one will invest if they might be blown up by an Abusayaf bomb, have to pay bribes to the government officials, pay protection money to the NPA and risk having your employees steal everything not nailed down.

Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket

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