By Hannah Torregoza
Some senators on Tuesday thumbed down the Department of Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) proposal to revive Republic Act 1700 or the Anti-Subversion Act to boost the country’s anti-terrorism laws.
“No, I’m not inclined to support it, ang i-criminalize mo uli. It encroaches on the fundamental right to a peaceful assembly, to protest. I don’t think I will support that,” Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson told reporters after a Senate hearing on the measures that seek to strengthen the Anti-Terrorism Act.
Lacson, head of the Senate committee on national defense and security, said DILG Secretary Eduardo Año’s proposal to re-enact the Anti-Subversion Law is out of the equation in their bid to strengthen the country’s Human Security Act (HSA) of 2007.
“No. That’s not under consideration. Na-decriminalize na ang Anti-Subversion Law,” he said.
Lacson said he sees no problem with students joining militant organizations like Kabataan Party-list or Anakbayan, “except, of course, that they are also violating the law for recruiting minors.”
“Pero hindi pa naman sila lumalampas sa stage na magjo-join sila ng NPA,” he pointed out.
But once the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) petition for proscription has materialized and the Regional Trial Court has ruled in favor of the government and formally accepted its proposal for the Communist Party of the Philippines – New Peoples’ Army (CPP-NPA) to be identified as terrorist organizations, then they would be liable under the HSA.
“Whoever joins the CPP-NPA will then be considered a terrorist, and therefore, in violation of the Human Security Act as it is now,” he said.
“I am not in favor of criminalizing subversion again. I would rather push for a strong anti-terrorism act that would somehow address the radicalization of students especially minors by preventing the CPP-NPA, once proscribed as a terrorist organization, from recruiting activists to join their ranks and commit terrorism against the state and its instrumentalities,” Lacson said.
Senator Grace Poe, for her part, also rejected the proposition, saying Congress should be careful with such proposals when the Constitution guarantees Filipinos rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.
“We need to protect our democracy. We cannot use the law to stifle our peoples’ rights to free speech and freedom to peaceful assembly,” Poe said.
Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon, earlier, said he will oppose any move to revive the anti-subversion law which was already repealed by the Ramos administration.
“I will strongly oppose any attempt to revive the Anti-Subversion Law in the same manner that I am extremely against the reimposition of the Death Penalty Law,” Drilon said in a statement on Tuesday.
“We do not want this Congress to be remembered for resurrecting more ‘dead’ laws instead of formulating sound policies that will address the country’s present problems,” the minority chief pointed out.