Sunday, July 22, 2007

Human Security Act: bill of rights for terrorists?

If you take it from Wall Street editorial today (23 July 2007), it seems like the Philippines’ Human Security Act is more concerned with the rights of the terrorists than people’s security itself. It’s even funny because when a terror suspect is acquitted, the state is mandated to pay the suspect P500,000 a day. Knowing the difficulties of proving “beyond reasonable doubt” all the time, one could assume that lots of terror suspects would go free. Isn’t that a disincentive for law enforcers and the armed forces to take the legal route?

The law also forbids the surveillance of communications between lawyers and subjects, doctors and patients, and journalists and their sources. Law enforcers could only detain terror suspects without charges for three days. “Psychological and moral torture” is also not allowed—which means law enforcers have few tools to deal with terrorists. They might as well just legislated that terror suspects be detained in a five-star hotel with full 24/7 access to TV channels.

It’s funny but I dread the possible consequences. There must be a balance somewhere.

Let’s take down the issue right down at the operational level. If you are an intelligence outfit, you know you have a job to do and yet your hands are tied to deal with the problem decisively, it would be difficult to go through the “due process” route given the disincentives, what could you really do? It seems like it would be more “efficient” to take the short cut: just shoot the terrorists right where you caught them. Kill and don’t tell.

I’m talking about how a system of incentives and disincentives could imbedded in the law might yet muddle the entire issue.

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