By Mario Casayuran
Martial law in Mindanao is a “toothless tiger” but the proposed amended Human Security Act is the answer to terrorism as it has razor-like teeth.
Senator Panfilo M. Lacon stressed this during and after a public hearing on his anti-terrorism bill attended by top officials of the country’s military, intelligence, judiciary, and law enforcement agencies.
Lacson heads the Senate committee on national defense that undertook yesterday’s public hearing.
In the past 17th Congress, the declaration of martial law sought by and given to President Duterte to fight Muslim terrorists is now on its third year. It will end on December 31.
The President had sought a congressional go-signal to declare martial law in Mindanao following the Marawi city siege more than three years ago.
Asked if it is now time to lift martial law in Mindanao because it is only supposedly being used to ‘’panakot’’ (strike fear), Lacson replied that he and his colleagues have been discussing this issue in open deliberation.
“Alam naman nating toothless ang ML (martial law) because the Constitutional rights are still guaranteed. Hindi ito ML noong panahon ni ex-President Marcos na wala talagang rights na pwedeng ma-exercise kasi una, suspended ang Constitution,’’ he explained. (This is not the same martial law of then President Marcos where no rights are allowed and the Constitution was suspended.)
‘’But this ML we are having now in Mindanao is actually a toothless martial law. They have admitted that they are using martial law for psychological purposes only,” he added.
Lacson said he and his colleagues asked themselves why there is so much fuss about martial which, after all, now under the 19897 Constitution, is the same as no martial law at all.
Military leaders led by Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana supported the bill that seeks to amend the Human Security Act of 2007, known as ‘’An Act To Secure the State and Protect Our People From Terrorism.’’
These leaders, according to Lacson, recommended longer detention period for suspects of terrorism from the current 36 hours to 14 days, the same period listed in the Lacson bill.
The bill mandates the courts to extend the detention period to another 15 days.
Neophyte Senator Roland Dela Rosa, a former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief like Lacson, supported Lacson’s bill, particularly the provision seeking longer detention period for terrorism suspects.
A longer detention period would allow law enforcement officers to have ‘’more time to gather evidence to indict the suspect.’’
In other countries, the time to detain a suspect ‘’has no limit,’’ Lacson said.
Dela Rosa, then the PNP Davao provincial director in 2015, narrated that intelligence officers insisted that a suspect the PNP was detaining was a foreign terrorist.
To satisfy his curiosity, Dela Rosa said, he interrogated the foreign ‘’terrorist’’ who insisted that he is a Filipino and even produced a Philippine passport.
Dela Rosa said the ‘’terrorist’’ sang the Philippine national anthem.
He said he was forced to release the suspect after the 36-hour reglamentary or else he might be accused of arbitrary detention.
Years later, the same intelligence officers showed him a video showing the ‘’Filipino’’ terrorist slashing the throat of a German journalist in a public execution in Syria.
That person claiming to be a Filipino “looked like a Filipino with a Middle Eastern accent,’’ Dela Rosa told Bulletin when asked to be specific on that ‘’foreign terrorist.’’
On some suggestions that the detention period should be for about 60 days, Lacson said this may be difficult to accept.
‘’Medyo mahirap ipasa dahil ang 14 days lang, I expect to see resistance from the progressive-minded lawmakers,’’ he said. (The proposed increased detention period from 36 hours to 14 days would have a difficult time.)