Draconian amendments to The Human Security Act

Warsaw, World War II. German police round up the enemy.

By JoeAm

Normally, I find laws to be well-intended if a little strange at times, as in the Philippines, laden with needless details and burdened with Latin.

But the proposed amendments to The Human Security Act are scary. They will give law enforcement wider latitude to accuse people of terrorism, and will add the death penalty to punishment options. This might be acceptable if we were dealing mainly with ISIS or similar deadly extremist groups, but we are not. We are dealing with a wide range of activities announced as threatening (“destabilizing”) by a government very thin of skin.

dra·co·ni·andrəˈkōnēən, adjective: (of laws or their application) excessively harsh and severe. Synonyms: harshseverestrictextremedrasticstringenttough

What does the amendment, House Bill 7141, propose to do?

First of all, the name of the law will be changed from Human Security Act of 2007 to the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 2018. That may seem like a trivial matter but, quite the contrary. The original law was written to protect citizens. But the change in name makes clear it is now government out hunting THEM. And THEM may be a lot of people under the new parameters.

The new name reflects an aggressive intent, not defensive, but offensive. A hunter mentality.

Who are the hunted? Who will be added as suspects for this government that already knows no limits to whom it tracks down? Kids, innocents, people relaxing in their yard . . .

The primary purpose of the bill seems to be to enhance the State’s ability to go after domestic terrorists such as the NPA or groups aligned with foreign terrorists, such as ISIS. If people are organizing rallies or blowing up buses . . . or helping in any way . . . they can face the death penalty. That’s why the bill is apparently supported by Magdalo congressman Gary Alejano. The Armed Forces of the Philippines wants no mercy for extremists who threaten, kill, and destroy.

The problem is that evidence suggests the Philippines is well down the path of ruthless autocracy with human rights removed from the nation’s agenda. Anyone who criticizes the President is destabilizing the government, from Rappler to Bam Aquino to priests trying to assert some sense of moral conscience.

The proposed amendments add human trafficking, drug usage/dealing, and cybercrime as ‘predicate crimes’ qualifying as terrorism. Yes, cybercrime. Already in the law are: piracy/mutiny, rebellion/insurrection, coup d’etat, murder, kidnapping, crimes of destruction, arson, toxic substances, nuclear/atomic materials, hi-jacking, kidnapping, and explosives . . . “thereby sowing and creating a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace, in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand . . .”

The crime of conspiracy to commit terrorism is expanded to include proposal to commit terrorism, inciting to terrorism, recruitment to terrorist organization, providing support to terrorists or terrorists organization, foreign terrorist fighter, and glorification of terror.

I think Dr. Jose Rizal was a terrorist, under the new terms, and anyone reading one of his books was, and is, glorifying it.

I’m not an attorney, but if the Philippine National Police (PNP) already arrest kids without slippers and teens without shirts, I can imagine that if you type the following tweet, the cybercrime enforcers could just as easily consider you to be a terrorist:

“It’s time to take to the streets . . .”

It gets worse.

The punishment moves from a fixed penalty of 40 year term to “life imprisonment to death.”

Let me type that again:

. . . life imprisonment to death.

The following changes are also introduced, along with several administrative matters:

  • The Secretary of Justice can compel telcos and internet service companies to preserve and produce all customer information including call and text data records.
  • Unwilling witnesses can be jailed for 30 days without warrant.

If I recite the closing phrase of the proposed bill, explaining why the amendment is so brief, it makes the hair on my neck stand up:

“. . . unconscionable provisions that are anti-law enforcement are also deleted.”

So the original bill was seen to constrain law enforcement. It protected citizens, but constrained the enforcers.

My friends, this bill is an authoritarian’s delight. It is now in technical working committee in the House. You remember the House, that infamous pack of sycophantic henchmen doing an autocrat’s bidding?

Boy are they cooking up a doozy for you.

The amendments don’t just throw a chill on free speech. They end it.

This law gives a government that views any criticism as destabilizing a tool draconian in style and substance.

The war against terrorism is about to go from being a war against extremists to a war against critics.



Human Security Act of 2007

Proposed amendments to the Human Security Act.


70 Responses to “Draconian amendments to The Human Security Act”
  1. karlgarcia says:

    I usually lean or am inclined to be pro-military.
    True we hate extortion through revolutionary taxes, we may hate all the rallies in the US embassy, we hate all the bombing of cell sites. We hate what happened to Marawi.
    But through the years talking to left leaning relatives, online friends,etc we tend to change our views.

    Now with regardslegislation, I have often told stories of my few adventures in the senate and in congress.
    I kibitzed on the International Humanitarian Act were Senator Biazon interpellated the sponsor Senator Gordon.

    The military side was articulated well, and I was surprised Gordon was left tongue tied by Biazon,actually no, I knew some of his support staff then.

    Now as to the HSA, terrorism is real unfortunately, but it is also unfortunate today and the future where everybody can ve a suspect and be subjected to inhumane traumatic experiences if they live to tell about it.

    Our jails are jampacked and there are no holding cells they are all jails.
    No one wants to donate land. Maybe this estate tax amnesty by DOF will allow the owners to sell their lands to the local government at leastto their barangay to make holding cells more humane.

    CCTVs worked on the UK for decades as a deterrent to terorism, but recent history tells us that isno longer the case.

    We say the war now is cyber war, do we should also have cyber security acts, but no, it is still about the human insecurities.

    Now there is a mental health law to handle part of the psychological war fare.
    The problem is you will be encouraged to have a PWD( persons with disability) ID that say mental
    illness on it.
    We visit our psychologists/pdychiatrists and we get branded for life just to have a discount.

    If we ordinary citizens feel the stigma, How can a police or soldier live with that. Insurance companies will reject apllications, they won’t get promoted,etc.

  2. karlgarcia says:

    Re: Free speech
    In the probable cause document leading to the indictment of TP for cyber libel,it said that politicians should not be onion-skinned.

    True everyone should not be onion skinned, but we have our responsibilities also to check our empathy levels, we leave in a nasty world where everybody wants to be heard.

    But man, to have 40 years to life, for saying Aguinaldo killed Bonifacio and Antonio Luna then close all the schools dang nabit!!!

    • karlgarcia says:

      That poor kid caught for shouting pekeng kalayaan, or fake independence in Cavite during independence day even if Duterte said he had a right to free speech, will have forty years to life if the law gets amended.

  3. Francis says:

    Ako’y isang kumukulong palaka.

    Worth remembering latest SWS survey—drop in approval driven by rising discontent in Class D.

    The state is playing fire with such expanded powers. Sure—ABC don’t mind the administration that much; why do they have to give a damn about EJKs and those annoying street brats and dirty tambays. And TRAIN? Yes—it’s a bit painful, but NEDA still says our economy is still one of the fastest growing in the world and isn’t Digong going to use that money for his Build, Build, Build?

    “I’ll just keep my head down and be fine.”

    “What? Me—a fanatic? I don’t care much for politics. They’re all corrupt anyway; I just mind my own business.”

    (Unspoken: I don’t touch politics. Politics don’t touch me.)

    A state with these wide-ranging powers—and as seen in the case of Sereno: the ability to not give a shit about legal niceties—can mean that “rebellion” and “inciting rebellion” can possibly be interpreted as referring to even the most innocent criticisms of those in power.

    I wonder…

    The problem with authoritarian regimes is that they (unless they possess competent bureaucracy like Japan, are likely driven by strong national security imperatives like SK and Taiwan or very ideologically driven like China—all factors not present in the case of the Philippines) more easily lose sight of pursuing the common good and instead fall into depraved corruption.

    This is because there is no feedback mechanism. And—to draw a rough analogy from my Econ 11 class—the marginal gains of simply suppressing dissent are far more tempting the absolute gains of solving roots of said dissent, i.e. inequality, poverty, etc.

    Why is everyone not a psychopath—if it is really about the “survival of the fittest,” wouldn’t the offspring with the “fittest” traits (like shamelessness) be the most numerous?

    That is because the ability to feel shame—to feel pain, in general—is important. Pain is there to tell us when to avoid something. That is why all organisms have evolved to feel pain—an organism not feeling pain will die quickly.

    I wonder how this administration would weather an actual crisis—a global recession, for instance…

  4. edgar lores says:

    1. My eyes go cross-eyed when reading any legislation, whether actual or proposed.

    1.1. The first source, “Human Security Act of 2007,” seems to have been written using Wordperfect 7. Yes, the text is aligned with the right margin. However, the text lines, and also the letters in words, float up and down.

    1.2. The second source, “Proposed amendments to the Security Act,” contains haphazard capitalization and inconsistent spacing that make for nauseating reading.

    2. Under Section 4 of the proposed amendments, three new special laws that have been added to the crime of terrorism:

    o Anti-trafficking in Persons Act of 2003
    o Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002
    o Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012

    2.1. In addition, the definition of terrorism has been expanded to include the following provision:

    “…or any other act (I) intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to any person, or (II) intended to cause risk to the health, safety, or security of the public, or (III) intended to seriously interferes (sic) with, disrupts (sic) or destroys (sic) critical infrastructure, or (IV) using weapons of mass destruction, or (V) proscribed under any of the relevant treaties and conventions which the Philippines is a state party when the purpose and/or effect of any of the above felonies, crimes or acts, by their nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a government, an international organization, or any person or entity, to do or to abstain from doing any act, …”

    3. Of the three new laws:

    3.1. I question whether human trafficking is terrorism. It is usually for the purpose of labor or sexual exploitation.

    3.2. Drug production and distribution may be considered terrorism but arguably drug usage is not.

    3.3. The inclusion of the cybercrime act may represent the greatest danger to human rights. Cybercrime includes cybersquatting, cybersex, child pornography, identity theft, illegal access to data and libel.

    3.3.1. It is the last — libel — that is most worrying to free speech. Remember it was this act that was used to intimidate Rappler for publication of an item on Corona in 2011. The item was published before the act was passed into law… and thus, is being used retroactively against Rappler.

    3.3.2. As noted by the post: combined with the provision detailed under 2.1, the Amendment can be used to charge any provocative commentary in cyberspace, any criticism of officials that can be interpreted to “destabilize” the administration.

    4. There is no consensus on the definition of the term “terrorism.” The term as used in the Philippines embraces all the provisions and laws detailed in Section 4 of the Amendment. The widening of the definition will allow many to be labeled as a terrorist and to suffer the death penalty.

    4.1. The death penalty has not been reinstated… yet. The bill was passed by the Lower House but has been stalled in the Senate. This should make the proposed Amendment unconstitutional.

    • Very nice elaboration on the post. You bring out the real threats to liberty that this law represents. It seems to me that people who are terrorized by criticism are prone to use this law. That, in itself, represents a fundamental shift away from the courage that it takes to permit freedom of expression. So the law tends to move toward cowardice, in the name of some crime-fighting honorableness.

    • edgar lores says:

      Note that libel applies to persons.

  5. Andres 2018. says:

    A strict law and heavy punishment is not bad at all. Or are you planning to do any of the enumerated crimes under the bill that you are complaining about it (this is not intended to the author but in general)?

    Libel is already there, it is just an expansion to include online libel.

    Death penalty is constitutional.

    Rallies are still allowed, provided with permit.

    Being like Rizal is not a terrorist, by this proposed bill. Being like Bonifacio is.

  6. NHerrera says:

    This is so overwhelming. May as well burn the house down with all of us inside including the Lower House members — while we are on the subject of terrorists. SONAmagan.

  7. “. . . unconscionable provisions that are anti-law enforcement are also deleted.”

    That almost sounds like it was inserted by Calida himself. Smells like him.

  8. chemrock says:

    What is terrorism?
    Anti-terrorism legislation endangers democracy because it seek to bypass existing legislative processes to facilitate executive handling of perceived dangers to the state. Pursued by leaders who are already suspiciously authoritative, there is no doubt it is the mechanism of choice to embed excessive powers in the legislation by simply adopting the scope of definition of terrorism as carte blanche for action against any deemed political opposition.

    Dictatorial tendencies assume a nihilist view, dissent of any form is terrorism because the end desire is to unseat the govt.

    The chief constitutive principle of scepticism is the claim that to every account an equal account is opposed. It behoves all ordinary citizens to scrutinise such proposed legislation or amendments. Brave and intelligent Filipnos must seek the Truth, for things to belief in. But far from Pyrrhonist skepticism, no quietism objective of seeking tranquility must prevail in this quest, or it will be the death of Philippines democracy.

    • I’ve never experienced totalitarianism up close before. Principles get turned backward. Criticism, rather than being a guiding force as it is imagined under democracy, is deemed an offensive or destructive force by the autocrat. The Philippine government is democratic in principle, but autocratic in operation. So people who think they are behaving in a constructive way are viewed by the State’s officials as a threat.

  9. madlanglupa says:

    Ironically, the ConCom removed the military from its role as the “protector of the people”, believing the military should be depoliticized and instead civil government is recognized as a prime authority. But I do not forget the advice of The Art of War, in which the government is reliant on the trust and loyalty of the generals.


    Unfortunately, as we know the draft charter has been, um, “approved” (God knows if he actually reads the fine print).

    Back to topic, it is all the more disturbing if some law-and-order people accept those amendments are necessary for which to turn, say, Quiapo, Baclaran, or Binondo into family-wholesome amusement parks. It would not be a surprise for me if these amendments are just part of the groundwork for which to establish the return to authoritarian rule, as if the minions of the Palace are cleaning and buffing the lacquered chair where either Marcos, Pacquiao, or Go would be sitting on.

    • karlgarcia says:

      This would not go unnociticed, I tell you.

    • Yes, the neutralizing of the AFP and making human rights link to treaties rather than the constitution are two steps that make perfectly clear that the people behind the redraft have more than ‘state’s rights’ on their mind, but are aiming to be totalitarian masters.

  10. karlgarcia says:

    What happened to your blog, man I thought German laws would protect you?

  11. karlgarcia says:

    From Irineo: My blog is presently “archived or suspended”. Don’t know why.

    Possibly my last article caused a lot of attacks and the admins had to shut it down temporarily. Contacted support. Let’s see.

  12. Gemino H. Abad says:

    The Reign of Terror is already here! on mere allegations of “destabilization,” our so-called
    law enforcers can shoot you down as “naglaban” and plant evidence of “gun” or “drug.” The arrest of “tambays” and their suffocation in crowded detention cells are but signs of the present
    Reign of Terror (before that, thousands of EJK’s based on Du30’s hit list!)

  13. From Popoy, via e-mail (JA):

    What Perhaps
    Is Not a Constitution

    By Popoy Del R. Cartanio

    In high school a constitution is taught
    as fundamental law, should be the basis
    of all a country’s laws.

    Like in England it can be unwritten
    Based only on common laws which
    Need not be changed by changing times.

    Or it can be scholarly written with wisdom
    By Founding Fathers and revolutionaries
    Like in the United States to be amended or
    partly changed and not totally replaced
    when changing times so dictate.

    This high school axiom appears elementary
    You can write one if you don’t have it
    And when you already have one
    “don’t fix it, if it ain’t broke”
    Only change some broke parts
    And not replace it with a new one.

    With or without it, a constitution
    In the course of short history
    tells so much about a people’s
    struggle for righteousness
    or the unintended malice
    of cleverness of its intelligentsia.

    If a constitution is a machine
    And the intelligentsia, its mechanic
    There is dumbness or ingenuity
    To totally replace it every time
    The machine operators falter.

    If a constitution symbolizes
    And reflects the quality of a people
    The constitution might tell GOOD
    With what it says less than BAD
    With what it prohibits more.

    If a constitution seeks to embody
    The essence and force of
    A nation’s body and soul
    Then it should not appropriate
    Or approximate the length
    And blow by blow account
    of a novel.

    Just think of a succinct constitution
    If one proviso in the fundamental law
    Need twenty laws to specify and enforce it
    Just think again of the difficulty besetting
    Lawmakers and citizens expected to obey
    If one hundred specifics in the fundamental law
    Need two hundred more laws to legislate
    To give them life for force and effect.

    In fine, and to be sure,
    If one norm of conduct in political affairs
    Had already fifty provisions
    mandated in a proposed constitution
    Does it not tell more about politicians
    And the people’s respect for the rule of law?
    Does it not implies dubious integrity
    And competence in fleshing out
    the proposed constitution?

    And so it goes with so detailed erudition
    That there’s much more to comply and obey
    That announces to the world verbosity makes
    The wildest of all jokes to say:
    “The best governed is the least governed”

    As when a proposed constitution submitted
    To plebiscite are tied with suicide
    Bomber’s IEDs of transitory provisions
    timed to explode upon people’s ratification
    should there not be people’s law against
    intellectual treason.

    As when a proposed constitution
    Constitutes large details of
    Of what clueless people require in life
    Admits a lot that adroit framers cannot
    be simple and fundamental.

    July 10, 2018

  14. madlanglupa says:

    OT: People woke up to find these banners greeting them.

    • edgar lores says:

      Who? And why?

      • madlanglupa says:

        Pure Banksy-style thought provocation. Even Hilbay thought it was a bad joke, but then some say it’s a better counterpoint to those Go advertisements ad nauseam.

        • This was my comment on his FB post, which got a good number of likes and a few people even caught my joke at the end:

          I think the signs embarrass Duterte, Go, Cayetano and the Chinese Embassy. I read it as satire. I like satire. If they are to be read seriously, then it is hugely offensive to the aforementioned. I find it hard to be angry about it. I just wonder if they were printed in the Philippines or Scarborough.

          • NHerrera says:

            I believe as you do that it is an embarrassment but for those officials to violently bad mouth this satire will be counter-productive. What will be there likely response if they have to coin such? I believe making a fuss will make the matter even more embarrassing? Besides, the remarkable thing is that it is saying in words and bannering them in red cloth, what the virtual reality is to many Filipinos.

  15. karlgarcia says:

    Seems Sotto is either a lame duck or is playing both sides when he questioned No-El 2019.
    Duterte already mentioned he hopes to have everything done by 2019.

  16. karlgarcia says:

    I notice that I have been more vocal against Duterte this past two months, than the whole two years of Duterte.
    Man, I had enough,but I will still abide by Joe’s guidelines of self moderated online activism, or else go to moderation.

  17. karlgarcia says:

    Well,well,well; Tulfo is scared that Lacson might offend Duterte.


  18. The words “conspiracy’, “proposal” and “probable cause” in the amendment will be used with gusto by this administration and the law enforcement/military groups to justify rounding up “suspects” of “terrorism” if this bill passed. Sorry about all the quotation marks. I just want to emphasize the ambiguous words that could be used as loopholes in creating a mayhem tantamount to (lawful?) state-sponsored terrorism. In PH where gossips, rumors, and fake news run rampant, the bill could have a catastrophic outcome.

    “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”

    The quote above had been used consistently in arguments about the definition of the words “terrorist” and “terrorism.” The jury is still out on what they really mean.

    “The key elements to terrorism are obvious to many — violence, noncombatant targets, intention of spreading fear, and political aims. But crafting a watertight, commonly accepted definition has proven difficult.”


  19. karlgarcia says:

    I am getting various complaints about their barangay and their barangay officials from my article about the community.

    It is a good exercise, I found out if you have a complaint againt your barangay chair, you go to the sanggunian which is the council, which is controlled by the chairman, where do you go?

    With this coming federal government cha cha, I guess TSOH will get more questions about their barangay, their municipality, etc.

    I could not just simply say,” go away troll”, I must at least try to answer. If symptoms persist, insult your doctor!

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