SURPRISED or even upset that House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and National Capital Region police chief Oscar Albayalde cannot agree on whether the June 1 attack in a gambling casino in Pasay City was an act of terrorism? Snap out of it.
The United Nations, for its more than 70 years of existence and the bond that ties its member countries, have failed to adopt a common definition.
Nations can’t agree that it’s terrorism if the violence on persons and properties is unleashed by a group fighting for (1) freedom, (2) religious belief, or (3) end to colonial rule.
State as element
What the U.N. agreed on was that the terrorism must be directed at the state. Not being able to agree on other aspects, they adopted instead 14 legal instruments that list individual acts of terrorism.
Speaker Alvarez’s definition requires intent to inflict harm, resulting in casualties and creating fear. Which seems to jibe with Albayalde’s definition: “massive casualties” and “massive fear.” The police chief says the Resorts World Manila (RWM) incident was not terrorism, just the savagery of a mentally unhinged compulsive gambler. The speaker insists it was. Remarkably, both dont require the element of the state being the target.
Omitted in debate
Alvarez and Albayalde omit an important element in the U.N. attempt to define: the political or social component of the attack. The state was offended when the gambler violated criminal laws but it wasn’t the target. In the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, the violence to be deemed terrorism must be aimed (a) to intimidate a government, the civilian population or a segment of it,” or (b) “to further a political or social objective.”
The part that includes the government and the “political or social” purpose of the attacker is crucial. That is, if they don’t want just any crime that results in “massive casualties” and “massive fear” to be considered terrorism.
Hairsplitting? Maybe not if they consider the results from the terrorism label. There would’ve been far more disastrous consequences on the country’s governance and economic and social life had the raid been the work of terrorists and not one gambler who took his casino losses badly.
The debate on language though shouldn’t diminish the need and urgency to improve intelligence gathering, security measures in public places, and capability to respond to a major crime scene. Be it terroristic or simply criminal.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on June 09, 2017.
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