MANILA, JULY 10, 2007 (STAR) By Marvin Sy - President Arroyo assured the people yesterday that the Human Security Act (HSA), more commonly known as the anti-terrorism law, would be implemented as scheduled on July 15 even without the implementing rules and regulations (IRR), saying the law is “self implementing.”

The statement of the President effectively put to rest the calls of various sectors including the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines for a review of the law because of concerns over its alleged abusive provisions.

CBCP president Archbishop Angel Lagdameo called for a review of the law “so that in consultation and dialogue we may have a law that is truly relevant in promoting the security of the nation in pursuit of authentic peace.”

Among the concerns cited by the CBCP in the law are the definition of terrorism which it considered as too broad and dangerous; the detention of terrorism suspects for more than three days; allowing house arrest even after posting bail; the provision for seizure of assets and surveillance or wiretapping of suspects.

Malacańang has stated that the law would be implemented on July 15 or two months after the holding of the May 14 midterm elections as prescribed by law.

The legal requirement of publication and broadcast of the provisions of the law and the law itself was started yesterday.

Defense Undersecretary Ricardo Blancaflor, the designated spokesman for the HSA, has been doing the rounds of broadcast media entities since last Friday to discuss the provisions of the law.

However, several sectors have questioned how the law would be implemented without an IRR.

There is no explicit provision in the law that requires the crafting of an IRR as well as the body that would do this.

The President said that she would be attending the Mindanao Peace and Security Summit in Cagayan de Oro today where she would deliver a speech on peace and order.

Mrs. Arroyo confirmed that the HSA would be part of the discussions in the summit.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, in a radio interview yesterday, said that the national security cabinet cluster would be holding its meeting in Mindanao to discuss preparations for the implementation of the HSA.

Ermita said that they decided to hold the meeting in Mindanao so that they will have a “feel on the ground” considering that the region is most affected by terrorism.

He also allayed public fears about the law, saying that it has enough safeguards to prevent abuses.

In a pastoral statement, the CBCP said this law should be reviewed first to ensure it would be “truly relevant in promoting the security of the nation and in the pursuit of authentic peace.”

CBCP media affairs head Bishop Deogracia Yńiguez Jr. said the bishops share with various sectors “apprehension about this law on the basis of constitutionality and provisions that may legalize objectionable methods of fighting and quelling opposition to the government.

Yńiguez specifically cited sections 3, 7, 19, 26 and 39 of RA 9372, which was signed into law by President Arroyo last March 6.

The definition of terrorism in section 3 is too broad and dangerous that it may create a condition of widespread panic, he explained.

The authority to conduct surveillance or wiretapping of suspects in section 7 could violate human rights.

He also questioned the provision in section 19 that allows detention of mere suspects for more than three days.

He said section 26, which allows house arrest despite the posting of bail and prohibits the right to travel and communicate with other suspects, should also be clarified.

The provision for seizure of assets in section 39 and investigation of bank deposits and other assets in section 26 are also prone to abuse, Yńiguez explained.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz expressed fear about the implementation of the Anti-Terrorism Law, saying “it can become not only odious but also treacherous when partisan politics are made reference factors in its implementation by the executive department.”

“The question is not really the law. The problem is its implementation. The issue is its execution more than the legislation,” Cruz said in his online blog.

He said the present administration is not exactly known for the protection, much less the promotion, of human rights. In effect, the executive department appears either reluctant if not incapable of preventing downright extrajudicial killings and abductions, he said. – With Edu Punay, Eva Visperas

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved