Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The real issue

(This post is ante-dated simply for the purpose of organizing the contents of this blog. I was on blog leave for two weeks)

There are a couple of questions I want to throw into the current melee regarding Republic Act 9372 also known as the Human Securities Act of 2007, more commonly referred to as the anti-terror law.
Where were all these people now raising a ruckus when the bill was still being deliberated in the House of Representatives and the Senate?
I know that we were all preoccupied with the mid-term elections, but then again, if we come to think about it, that’s hardly an excuse—the election campaign would have been a perfect opportunity to discuss the issue. It would have been opportune to make lawmakers accountable for the passage of the bill.
It is disconcerting to note that what is being passed off as “debate” (I am highlighting the word debate because I will go back to it later in this piece) over the provisions of the anti-terror law is happening only now—months after the bill was passed. The uproar only started a couple of weeks back when the July 15 implementation date loomed in the picture. It came to a boil when the Catholic bishops asked for a deferment in the implementation of the law. As usual, the bishops spoke too late.
The deliberations made during the passage of the bill were quite lengthy and exhaustive. A lot of amendments, insertions, and revisions were made, including changing the title of the bill from anti-terror to Human Securities Act (which, by the way, makes it sound like we are country engaged in trading people as commodities. But then again, we have millions of migrant Filipino workers. Perhaps it is serendipity).
But why didn’t these people speak up during the legislative hearings and there registered their objections and reservations formally?
I am not asking these questions to spite the people who are only raising their objections now. I am merely pointing out that causes can be better served with some strategic thinking and a more proactive attitude. I am only reminding everyone that there are processes, like those for recalling a law, involved in a democracy. Unfortunately, we’ve gotten used to the mob mentality of effecting changes in our country. When we don’t like something, we just demand that it be thrown out without regard for processes and yes, costs.
It would have been great if this whole debate were done when the law was still being deliberated in Congress. More people would have been enlightened and this country would not have spent as much resources on a law that supposedly endangers our civil liberties.
But then again, raising points at legislative hearings does not invite as much media attention compared to shouting in Mendiola or pontificating on television. Could it be that this is what the current melee is really about—inviting media attention and trying to sustain public interest at a time when most people seemed resign to accept the status quo?
And then there’s the scuttlebutt that all these are simply preparatory activities leading toward major political actions.
Where was media the whole time that the bill was still in Congress? It would have been great if media called our attention to the bill then. And while we are at it, how come media projection of the issue is still about personalities (who are opposed) and the infighting (what people are doing or showing to show their opposition to or defense of the law) rather than on the truths and myths about the law?
Which brings me to another question: Where are the legislators who authored, co-authored, voted for or against the law? These are the people who should be answering our questions and enlightening us right now since they were the ones who introduced this law on our lives in the first place. In their stead, we are forced to make do with some incoherent military factotum, hopelessly ill-prepared to argue with more seasoned and better trained (in the art of political discourse) militants.
Incidentally, why can’t our military authorities work on their media skills so that they come across as more persuasive and amiable?
It is also disconcerting to witness legislators doing a Pontius Pilate all over again. They voted to enact the bill into law and yet have the temerity to turn around and ask for its recall because of the anticipated public backlash. Some of our leaders really think nothing of sacrificing principles at the altar of popularity.
I also want to ask: How come the rhetoric being used in something as specific as opposition to the anti-terror law hue very closely to the usual political opposition discourse? I caught some of those opposed to the law on a television show recently and I was floored down with the rather obvious and forced effort to string together all the issues that have bedeviled this administration.
I can understand the anti-imperialist stance of the leftists. I will even make allowances for their anti-United States rhetoric. We know that it is primarily an ideological issue for these people.
But for crying out loud, stringing together the Joseph Estrada case, Hello Garci, the elections in Maguindanao, political dynasties, jueteng, etc. while debating on the anti-terror law is absurd. These are important issues, but they are not directly relevant to the debate. Unless, of course, the main idea is really to indict the administration at all costs and at every opportunity. In which case, let’s cut this pretense of having a debate at all.
Given the tenor of the ongoing discussion on the anti-terror law, one conclusion is inevitable. The issue is not so much about the Human Security Act per se since we know that the law is actually a watered-down version of what other countries have.
The main issue is trust. Many people just do not trust that this administration has full control over the military at this time. Many people simply do not trust this administration, period. Given the abysmal failure of this administration to curb military abuses and to put a halt to extra-judicial killings, the distrust is understandable.

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