Like a mantra, police officers interviewed about the North Cotabato bombings repeatedly and uniformly say, “we have suspects but because we don’t have an anti-terrorism law, we cannot pick them up. “ Every hour on the news, we are bombarded with this. One reporter, Jay Ruiz of ABS-CBN, has adopted it as his own opinion in a news report by saying “Mentang (?) admitted his participation in the bombings but was later released because of the absence of an anti-terrorism law.” (ANC hourly news, Oct.13-14, 2006).
They repeat those lines over and over thereby misleading televiewers. Of course the suspects can be picked up. Six people were killed as a result of those bombings. The police can pick up the suspects, read them their rights, ask if they are waiving and make them waive and sign waiver in front of a lawyer (the police have a form in Filipino and English of such a waiver), and then question them, and then within 36 hours inquest them and file charges for murder. Of course, the suspects can be picked up, six persons were killed! In fact, they can be picked up and detained and the charges can be filed much later under the much-hated doctrine Ilagan vs. Ponce-Enrile, still in our casebooks (and with which I disagree but it’s still there); the Supreme Court in said case said the illegality of any arrest and detention can be cured by the belated filing of charges (the charges have to be filed before the court issues a writ of habeas corpus). Of course they can be picked up! They can even be detained for a long time, for a week, two weeks as long as their lawyer does not file a petition for the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, but when that is filed, prepare the rap sheet and file it before the judge issues the writ, under that doctrine (it is a much-hated case, Ilagan vs. Ponce-Enrile), (I’ll keep repeating that I disagree with that but it’s in our casebooks).
The police can also execute affidavits. They have a form in their file. It’s called a “Sinumpaang Salaysay” (Sworn Statement). They can submit the affidavits to a judge and get a search warrant and on the basis of which, search the houses and offices of their suspects; and on the basis of evidence gathered, file cases for murders.
Of course they can be picked up! The only small thing there is, charges should be filed against them later on. But the police officers refuse to do this. Why? Because they’re not sure they would be able to file charges. And why are they not sure they would be able to file charges? Because their suspicion is based on rumors and not evidence or information.
And that is at the heart of the campaign to have an anti-terror law. It is a law that does away with the requirement that the police, before they pick up and jail any bystander, should have some kind of certainty that the person probably committed crime so that during the inquest there is evidence and the suspect would not be released for failure to charge him/her. Why should the police have some kind of certainty or evidence? Why are they not allowed to guess? The Constitution does not allow innocent persons to be jailed without evidence and without charges. Why is the police not allowed to guess? So that your taho vendor, your skateboarding out-of-school neighborhood kids, your long-haired newspaper dealer, your eccentric Muslim professor, your driver, brother, officemate, classmate, you and me, would not be detained for three days without our families, lawyer, friends knowing where we are while the police use electricity or plastic bags and rope (for suffocating) to extract confessions.
The anti-terror usec said that we need an anti-terror law because in
London the suspects in the train bombings were detained for 12 days before they were charged. Detaining suspects for 12 days does not mean that your evidence is admissible; it does not mean you would get a conviction of all of them later; and if you do get a conviction, it does not mean you would never make a mistake in jailing innocent people because law-enforcers have been allowed to imprison people on mere guesswork. But that is what the anti-terror usec wants: to give the PNP and the NBI the power of life and death over all of us.
Any person wrongfully detained, incommunicado, subjected to torment, can never be restored even if damages are paid to him or her for the wrongful detention.
The campaign to have an anti-terrorism law passed is a campaign to have a law that would empower inefficient and corrupt law enforcers who do not want to do any kind of hard work in gathering evidence in order to capture the real terrorists.
So….are you willing give the PNP and the NBI the power of life-and-death over all of us because they cannot capture members of the Jemaah Islamiyah and the Abu Sayyaf?
That’s what this is all about.