IT IS plain insanity to burn your house down to get rid of termites that are gnawing at the woodwork. Yet this is exactly what the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 does. To protect our creaky democratic house from terrorists it removes a foundation stone causing it to weaken further and eventually come crashing down.
It’s the old Marcos fallacy again of saving democracy from communism by doing away with its most critical feature, freedom from warrantless arrest and arbitrary detention. This most basic of democratic freedoms can simply not be compromised to save democracy from an enemy who is within and not at the gates.
Early in Martial Law, I was “invited for questioning” by the military in Davao City. Some invitation, it was delivered by a truckload of soldiers in full battle gear. I have been tagged a communist working to overthrow the government; the terrifying “tactical interrogations” in a military “safe house” told me that much. Yet, all the while I was simply lending my voice or my pen as a priest to the “least of Christ’s brethren,” the tenant-farmers, sacadas, and ordinary laborers who were getting a raw deal from landlords and employers.
This nightmare can now happen again to outspoken yet non-violent social activists and members of legitimate farmers and workers organizations striving for meaningful but peaceful changes in our shaky democratic structure. Come to think of it, powerful people stung by my columns could make it happen to me again.
But worst of all it could happen to plain simple folk who might in one way or another incur the ire of somebody rich and powerful. We are only too aware of how the latter persecute with impunity those who stand in the way of their economic and political ambitions.
Why not strengthen our social structure instead by democratizing or making inclusive our economy? Why not, as some suggest tongue in cheek, wipe out corruption with a law that allows warrantless arrest of politicians and government bureaucrats suspected of corruption? These are the real enemies within. They are the termites eating up the woodwork of our Philippine house.
The Philippine house is shaky mainly because its foundations are weak and it is top-heavy. Removing a critical foundation stone yet keeping it as top-heavy as it is now is a sure-fire formula for an eventual structural collapse.
We have never had free and fair elections. The farmer-worker sector never had proportionate representation in government. Suspending freedom from warrantless arrests and arbitrary detentions takes non-violent change agents out of the picture and opens the gates to dyed-in-the-wool terrorists who already are using the bill to openly recruit the unwary to their unholy cause.