First of THREE PARTS
By Raïssa Robles
Over the past week since Senator Panfilo Lacson said my use of the word “stealthy” to describe his insertion of Section 25 in the Anti-Terrorism Law (ATL) “is malicious and untrue”, the senator has gone on radio, print and the official Senate website to belittle my blog post.
What did I say that upset him so much? I said that first, Section 25 was inserted at the last moment and second, Section 25 is a dangerous provision. To read it, please click on this link: Senator Panfilo Lacson hastily inserted the new Anti-Terrorism Law’s ‘dangerous’ Section 25 empowering Duterte officials to ‘designate’ anyone a terrorist
Just to recap why Section 25 is dangerous
To recap, Section 25 gives the nine-man Anti-Terrorism Council – headed by the president’s Executive Secretary, seven cabinet members plus the anti-money laundering chief – the power to “designate” anyone or a group “terrorist”.
The dangerous power given to the ATC is found in the third paragraph of Section 25, which states that:
“The ATC may designate an individual, groups of persons, organization, or association, whether domestic or foreign, upon a finding of probable cause that the individual, groups of persons, organization, or association commit, or attempt to commit, or conspire in the commission of the acts defined and penalized under Sections 4, 5, 6, 7. 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 of this Act.”
Lacson, the main author of the law, insists that the only effect of this “designation” is a freezing of the designated terrorist’s asset.
But the third paragraph of Section 25 does not give that kind of limitation.
Legal experts who have questioned Section 25 said this section – when paired with Section 29 on warrantless arrests ordered by the ATC – actually gives Duterte through his cabinet officials, the power to arrest his critics and those opposed to him.
Lacson insists the limitation on ATC’s power to freezing assets is found in Section 45, creating the ATC, with the following phrase – “Nothing herein shall be interpreted to empower the ATC to exercise any judicial or quasi-judicial power or authority.”
The problem is, the word “herein” could be interpreted to mean only insofar as the ATC powers detailed in Section 45 are concerned. Section 45 makes no mention whatsoever of ATC’s power to “designate” terrorists.
Still, Senator Lacson continues to insist that Section 25 is merely the mechanism missing for the Anti-Money Laundering Council to freeze assets under the “The Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act” or Republic Act 10168.
However, Section 3(b) of this new Anti-Terrorism Law makes it clear that the third paragraph of Section 25 adds a totally new definition to the already existing definition of a “designated person” by stating that:
“For purposes of this Act, the above definition shall be in addition to the definition of designated persons under Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 10168, otherwise known as the “Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012″.
The “above definition” pertains to “Any person, organization, association, or group of persons designated under paragraph 3 of Section 25 of this Act.”
Why did I say Lacson inserted Section 25, including its third paragraph “stealthily”
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines “stealthy” as “covert” and “done without attracting observation”.
There are other definitions of the word “stealthy” but I meant these two definitions. Lacson did his insertions covertly, without attracting observation from the public he is supposed to serve.
Before I go on, let me explain that my reply to Senator Lacson will be divided into three parts:
Part 1, which is this post, will explain why I found Senator Lacson’s insertion of Section 25 “stealthy” and “hasty”;
Part 2 will show proof why my blog post has no malice, because the senator is implying he might file a cyber libel suit against me (he did this by saying he would not sue me for libel,); and
Part 3 will post all the documents I used as basis in Part 1, in other words, the documentary proofs.
And so, my reply is going to be lengthy.
I respectfully disagree with Senator Lacson and I respectfully assert that what I said was true and factual and the use of the words “hastily” and “stealthily” has basis.
Answering Lacson’s particular tweet
First, let’s examine the senator’s tweet:
I read Ms Raisa (sic) Robles’ blog on ATL. It is malicious and untrue. Fact is, after the amendment by substitution on Feb 12, 2020, Sens Pangilinan, on Feb 18 and Drilon on Feb 19 introduced substantial amendments to the substitute bill. No amendments were made on Section 25.
I read Ms Raisa Robles’ blog on ATL. It is malicious and untrue. Fact is, after the amendment by substitution on Feb 12, 2020, Sens Pangilinan, on Feb 18 and Drilon on Feb 19 introduced substantial amendments to the substitute bill. No amendments were made on Section 25.
— PING LACSON (@iampinglacson) July 4, 2020
To prove that what I said was untrue, he cited the “fact” that – “after the amendment by substitution on Feb 12, 2020, “Sens Pangilinan, on Feb 18 and Drilon on Feb 19 introduced substantial amendments to the substitute bill. No amendments were made on Section 25.”
I would call that argument irrelevant and immaterial to the issue at hand.
First of all, I never disputed in my blog post the fact that there were amendments from other senators which Lacson had accepted on his substitute bill. I am perfectly aware both senators had introduced “substantial” amendments which Lacson had accepted.
Because my blog post was not about that. It was about the “stealthy” insertion of Section 25.
As for there being no amendments on Section 25 proposed by opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan and Senate Minority Floor Leader Frank Drilon, that is also immaterial and irrelevant.
For reasons of their own, they did not propose any amendments to Section 25. Perhaps because, from my reading of the Senate journal and transcript of stenographic notes of the floor deliberations, I could see both senators had their hands very full in trying to insert as many amendments as they could in the 63-page bill.
Lacson’s logic in his tweet is flawed
Sen. Lacson tweeted that “No amendments were made on Section 25”.
The fact that no amendments were made does not mean Section 25 IS NOT highly questionable.
Lacson said he has a battery of lawyers to ensure constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Law
Lacson, in his own blog post, asserted that his lawyers went through his entire proposed measure to ensure constitutionality.
In case she does not realize it yet, Robles has maligned not only Senator Lacson, but also his staff as well as the entire Senate, with her malevolent fairy tale:
* Sen. Lacson’s legislative staff, who burned the proverbial midnight oil to craft the measure and make sure it adheres to the Constitution; and
* the entire Senate, which went through the bill with a fine-toothed comb but who, as insinuated by Robles’ article, were sleeping on the job to let the supposed insertions get past them.
If Lacson’s bill was so constitutional, arrayed against his battery of lawyers are the following prominent legal experts who are questioning Section 25:
*Retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio;
*Framer of the 1987 Constitution Christian Monsod;
*Framer of the 1987 Constitution Felicitas Aquino;
*Far Eastern University Institute of Law dean Mel Sta Maria;
*Chel Diokno, founding dean of the De La Salle University College of Law;
*Integrated Bar of the Philippines president Domingo Cayosa
Among them, they must collectively have more than a century of experience interpreting the law. Why is it that they all interpret Section 25 in the same way I did?
Are they also lying?
Senator Lacson has to look into the possibility that Section 25 lends itself to two interpretations. Yes it will help freeze assets of terrorists, as Lacson says. But at the same time, it will give the government a fine net with which to catch not just terrorists but also critical dissenters of Duterte’s policies.
Lacson claims Section 25 is only meant to provide a mechanism to freeze terrorist assets.
Lacson in his blog asserts that:
Section 25 of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 provides for a mechanism that will trigger the freezing of assets of terrorists and terrorist groups by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC). Said Section 25 is based on a proposal from the AMLC that Republic Act 10168 – the Terrorist Financing Suppression and Prevention Act of 2012 – lacks the required designation mechanism that will allow authorities to prevent the assets and property from being used to finance terrorism.
My question for Sen. Lacson is this: If this “designation mechanism” was THAT IMPORTANT, why insert it at the last minute?
I am providing a chronology below to show that Lacson had all the time in the world – starting 2018 when he filed his own version of the measure – to insert the text of Section 25 but he did it only at the last minute, hastily and stealthily.
But first, here are my reasons for using the words “stealthily” and “hastily” to describe his insertion
I used the word “stealthily” from the point of view of a citizen and a journalist, not from the viewpoint of a senator.
Under Senate rules, there was nothing wrong with Senator Lacson’s last minute insertion. It is allowed under Senate rules and I said so in my previous blog post.
However, based on my personal familiarity of the legislative process, I found this particular insertion sudden, without any notice to the public he is supposed to serve, and without explanation whatsoever, leading me to conclude it was done in a stealthy and hasty manner.
Let me explain the context of the statement I just said.
While the 1987 Constitution is the mother contract between the governed and those being governed, I look at laws as the sub-contracts between us, citizens, and those who govern us.
It is therefore important that when lawmakers make laws, we the citizens are informed about it with enough time to react and give our inputs, and perhaps make the laws better.
Because OUR LIVES ARE GOING TO BE AFFECTED BY THOSE LAWS.
This is also the reason why lawmakers hold public hearings on proposed bills and issue press statements.
Senate President Sotto and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano are correct in saying that the Anti-Terrorism law (ATL) had undergone three years of debate. But in all those three years, Section 25 was never a part of that debate because it was inserted at the last minute.
As both senior lawmakers said, the new Anti-Terrorism Law (ATL) has been at least three years in the making.
In all those years, no senator or congressman who filed a bill ever included in their proposed measure what is now Section 25 in the ATL. Not even Senator Lacson.
For an explanation on why Section 25 is a dangerous provision, please read my blog post – Senator Panfilo Lacson hastily inserted the new Anti-Terrorism Law’s ‘dangerous’ Section 25 empowering Duterte officials to ‘designate’ anyone a terrorist
Chronology: The making of the ATL
Honasan’s bill wanted to declare as terrorist anyone who joins or “manifests his intention” to join an organization that the court has already “proscribed” or ruled as a terrorist group.
While Honasan advocated warrantless arrests for terrorists, he wanted to keep to the three-day detention period stated in the 1987 Constitution Bill of Rights, requiring the police or law enforcement personnel to bring any suspect nabbed without a warrant before a judge within three days of arrest.
On February 28, 2018 – in the previous 17th Congress – Senate President Sotto filed Senate Bill No. 1715 to amend the 2007 Human Security Act. Section 25 was not in it. Sotto proposed a 30-day detention for warrantless arrests.
On February 4, 2019, Lacson issued Committee Report No 638, consolidating his, Sotto’s and Honasan’s bills into SBN 2204. There was no Section 25. Detention for warrantless arrests had been reduced to 14 days.
Senate failed to pass SBN 2204 before the 2019 elections.
On July 1, 2019, before the current 18th Congress formally resumed sessions, Lacson filed SBN 21, which on close reading was actually the previous SBN 2204 which had failed to pass Congress before the elections. There was no Section 25. Warrantless arrests detentions were still at 14 days.
Lacson’s SBN 21 was actually the previous SBN 2204 which had failed to pass Congress before the 2019 May elections. Again, both Sotto’s and Lacson’s versions had no Section 25.
Congressman Jericho Nograles was next with House Bill No 2082, on July 15, 2019. On close examination, it appears to be nearly identical to Lacson’s SBN 21, down to the commas and periods. Again, there is no mention of Section 25.
Back in the Senate on August 13, 2019, the Senate defense committee chaired by Lacson held what seems to be the only public hearing on this measure in the 18th Congress. Again, there was no mention of Section 25. No one from the private sector was present. It would be good if Lacson told the nation who in the private sector he had invited but did not show up.
It was only on February 12, 2020, when Lacson personally inserted Section 25 as part of the substituted Senate Bill No 1083. Lawmakers call it an “amendment by substitution”. It was the first time ever Section 25 appeared.
Lacson inserted the dreaded Section in a manner that did not attract the notice of the public whom he was sworn to serve.He did not issue a press statement detailing the most important changes from the 2007 Human Security Act – which was replaced by the ATL. I call that stealthy. It is not just the Duterte administration and the military establishment he is supposed to be serving, but the ordinary citizens.
Lacson inserted Section 25 very hastily – two weeks before approval.
Is Lacson saying that from March 2017 to early February 2020 no one, including himself, had thought of inserting Section 25?
What really broke the camel’s back for me was that Lacson scolded members of the public for not having reacted sooner since he said the ATL had been under discussion for years.
But you can see from the chronology of events that while the anti-terrorism bills were indeed under discussion from March 15, 2017 to February 26, 2020 – OR A MATTER OF 35 MONTHS, Section 25 came to light only in the final 15 days.
Does that not fit the definition of “hastily” and “stealthily” to a T?