Monday, July 16, 2007

The Human Security Act: Is there anything to fear?

I was worried when I woke up this morning to read that Republic Act 9372, has finally come into effect. I was sure to find something ominous in this law, but I didn't read anything worrying for opposition movements who do not bear arms.

Terrorism is clearly defined by six articles in the Revised Penal Code and a few other decrees and laws. Unless you're an outright criminal, the most worrying for anyone critical of the government would probably be Article 134 (Rebellion or Insurrection) which is defined as:
Art. 134. Rebellion or insurrection; How committed. — The crime of rebellion or insurrection is committed by rising publicly and taking arms against the Government for the purpose of removing from the allegiance to said Government or its laws, the territory of the Philippine Islands or any part thereof, of any body of land, naval or other armed forces, depriving the Chief Executive or the Legislature, wholly or partially, of any of their powers or prerogatives.
What can be a little hairy is the part about 'rising publicly and taking arms against the government.' It doesn't say 'rising publicly' OR 'taking arms' against the government, so if you 'rise publicly,' as in public protests or rallies, you shouldn't be classified a terrorist. Therefore the government cannot lawfully proceed with this:
SEC. 7. Surveillance of Suspects and Interception and Recording of Communications.
...a police or law enforcement official and the members of his team may, upon a written order of the Court of Appeals, listen to, intercept and record...any communication, message, conversation, discussion, or spoken or written words between members of a judicially declared and outlawed terrorist [groups]...or any person charged with or suspected of the crime of terrorism or conspiracy to commit terrorism.
So, those who are vocally against the government are not terrorists. Which makes me wonder why this law was passed at all. A deterrent to those who are plotting to overthrow the government? Check. A reminder that the State has the only legitimate right to use force in the land? Check. Something to intimidate the whole population? Perhaps. Something to remind the population that we need the State for protection? Perhaps. The first of incremental steps to increase the policing and monitoring reach of the government? Probable.

In a classic strategy of any governing power to gain compliance and mute opposition of those governed, the government resurrects the usual suspects. I do wonder at the perfect timing of the soldier beheadings. It makes you wonder if the government staged the whole thing, especially since the MILF has denied responsibility.

Before there were Communists. Now there are Communist-Terrorists. Before long they'll probably be called Communist-Terrorist-Islamists. I think the government should be very careful what other nasty things this new law resurrects. Does it want the Philippines to be a front on the global war against terrorism? Do we want an excuse for US military interventionism? Do we want the attention of Islamic fundamentalists networked all over the world? Do we want to make targets 8 million overseas Filipinos working in 190+ countries and territories abroad? Do we want to alienate Filipino Muslims any more than our masalimuot history already has? Do we?!? Do we really?!?

In the Arroyo administration's naked and very short-sighted machinations to consolidate its power, it has compromised our real human security. R.A. 9372 should be re-named Human Insecurity Act. Or State Security Act. Even National Security Act. This law protects the State apparatus and those in control of that apparatus. It does not protect Filipinos.

The United Nations was the first to coin the term Human Security to replace the old notion of National Security. In the UNDP's 1994 Human Development Report, it shifts the focus of 'security' away from the protection of nation-states to the protection of individuals. The report defines human security as having two main aspects - "safety from...hunger, disease and repression" and "protection from sudden and hurtful disruptions in the patterns of daily life."

True human security for the Filipino people should be our freedom from want. This is what the government should be spending our taxes on. This is what the government should be expending all of its bureaucratic energies on. This is what the government should be planning for and thinking about day and night. It should not waste its manpower and precious resources on making sure whoever occupies Malacanang stays in Malacanang.


Edited to add:

Micketymoc has called me out on insinuating the Marine beheadings were staged to make everyone go along with the HSA. He writes:

Wait, are you theorizing that the government actually fired on its own people and beheaded ten of them? Seriously?

In the case of the Basilan ambush, the reports from the different parties suggest otherwise. Only wishful thinking would suggest that GMA would be directly responsible for this. It's not "suspicious timing", it's an inconvenient coincidence.

GMA is not Marcos. Not saying that GMA is incapable of potentially becoming as evil as Marcos, but I'm only saying that if we want to stop her from getting there, we have to be more careful with the truth and avoid wishful/sloppy thinking.

To which I responded:

See, I don't believe in convenient coincidences. I'm not home, so I don't know what you've been seeing on the news, only what I read on the online news sources. I haven't seen the 'brutality' of the beheadings. I haven't seen the footage. I haven't been exposed to the desired effect of this event - that is, a subtle reminder that there is a 'threat,' therefore we should all shut up and let the government do what it should to 'protect' us.

I'm not suggesting GMA directly ordered anything. I realise GMA can't control all her generals, i.e. the likes of Palparan.

Hell, for all we know GMA is doing her best to placate her generals so they won't launch a coup and take over. I know the government isn't a unified body, there's got to be some serious power struggles going on in there. Maybe the HSA is a middle ground, a compromise between the executive and the military. GMA has already appointed so many former and present military men in her cabinet. Keeps everybody happy with power sharing.
He says its wishful/sloppy thinking. The idea that the government would knowingly sacrifice its own soldiers certainly sounds fantastical. But then we've heard of news stories where certain elements of the AFP actually sell armaments to the enemy. Preposterous? I don't think so.


Edited to add some more.

Micketymoc responds:

“For all we know”… we might say that all we like, but that doesn’t prove anything. “For all we know” also suggests that there’s an equal likelihood of the rebels OR the government planning the ambush.

What unnerves me about the opinions you’ve posted so far is the casual way you calculate certain values – that the idea of government sacrificing its soldiers in such a gruesome way is as “preposterous” (and therefore just as likely) as corrupt quartermasters making a killing off illegally-sold firearms. The profit-to-cost equation simply isn’t the same for either.

A general who’ll sell government firearms for a quick buck, yes, easy to find; not so easy to find is the general who’ll order the beheadings of his own soldiers, or a President who’d order the same.

You suggest your lack of exposure to the news here has protected you from the “desired effect”… well, congratulations. I would also ask you to keep in mind how your distance from the action might shield you from some inconvenient facts: that the area where the ambush occurred happens to have been MILF-controlled territory; that it’s easier to attribute our soldiers’ vulnerability to stupidity and not malice (Hanlon’s Razor); that there’s no likely connection between the timing of the ambush and the passing of the HSA (this is what I meant by the phrase “inconvenient coincidence” – the fact that it was a coincidence is inconvenient to your conspiracy theory).

The MILF accepted responsibility for the firefight, but denied they ordered the beheadings of the soldiers. Read the article you linked to more carefully – the MILF’s Mohaguer Iqbal could only answer, “Who has the motive?” to questions about the beheadings. What’s far more likely – MILF troops getting carried away and mutilating enemy bodies in revenge, or government soldiers doing the same thing (in the heat of battle, mind you) to their fallen comrades? Hello, Occam’s Razor?

Beneath our political differences, we do want the same things for ourselves and our countrymen – prosperity, justice and real security. I simply believe that indulging in fantastic conspiracy theories won’t get us any closer to those shared objectives, just the opposite.

To which I say:

Micketymoc: "What unnerves me about the opinions you’ve posted so far is the casual way you calculate certain values."

If you are suggesting I have become inured to the reality of Philippine politics, that I write off-hand about what you call my conspiracy theories, maybe you are right. But I am writing with baggage, all that I have learned, heard and read about the how politics works perhaps make me jaded. Cynical even.

How should I have expressed my opinion? How should I have written my insinuation? Was my tone not properly grave enough, should I have expressed grief and reverence for our fallen soldiers? Was I not patriotic enough?

If you question how I casually "express my opinions" then I apologise for reavealing the ugly, immoral and dirty dynamics of Philippine politics. I apologise for revealing a truly nasty version of humanity.

Micketymoc: "I simply believe that indulging in fantastic conspiracy theories won’t get us any closer to those shared objectives, just the opposite."

You picked out a sentence in a very long post. The point of the whole essay was to question the motives of the Human Security Act and to suggest the true meaning of human security for Filipinos.

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