Cops see trouble in enforcing terror law

Cops see trouble in enforcing terror law

Last updated 06:16am (Mla time) 07/29/2007

CAMP DANGWA, Benguet, Philippines—The police have admitted that they cannot afford to enforce the antiterror law because it prescribes harsh penalties and jail time for law enforcers who inadvertently pursue the wrong terror suspects.


What’s worse for the police is that they must enforce a law that has an obscure definition for terrorism, which increases the odds that law enforcers would end up making mistakes, said Senior Insp. John Ekid, a lawyer.


“The second element [to establish] terrorism [is the act of] creating a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace. Parang mahirap i-distinguish kung ano ang (It seems difficult to distinguish between) extraordinary fear and panic and ordinary fear and panic,” said Ekid, who is the Cordillera police’s only legal officer.


“Para matawag na widespread… kailangan bang buong Pilipinas merong fear sa mga tao natin o… nararamdaman lang ng isang barangay (To be referred to as widespread fear, should terrorism affect the whole Philippines or is it already terrorism even if it is felt only by a barangay?),” he asked reporters at a briefing on Wednesday.


Police doubts


Ekid said this is an example of why police also fear the antiterror law or Republic Act No. 9827.


At a human rights forum last week, lawyer Harry Roque, director of the University of the Philippines Institute of International Legal Studies, predicted this problem.


“Even if the government disseminates what the law is all about, the police will not understand it as long as there is no standard definition. This is the same condition confronting all people with average intelligence,” Roque said.


During the press briefing, Chief Supt. Raul Gonzales, Cordillera police director, said the Philippine National Police directorate for operations and its legal affairs division have asked a study group to determine how vulnerable policemen have become in confronting terrorism.


He said this is the only antiterror law in the world where subjects of surveillance must first be advised about police investigations before law enforcers can proceed with their work.


Stiff costs


Section 50 of the law has been criticized because it requires the police to pay a suspect acquitted by the court P500,000 “for every day that he or she has been detained or deprived of liberty or arrested without a warrant as a result of such an accusation.”


Section 41 of the law requires the police or the Anti-Terror Council, that oversees enforcement, to pay an acquitted suspect P500,000 for every day pieces of his or her properties or assets were confiscated as evidence by the state.


“We still do not know where to get that [amount],” Gonzales said.


The law also demands a six-month jail term for the arresting officers should the release of an acquitted suspect is delayed.


Gonzales said the police study group’s conclusions could either convince the 14th Congress to amend the law or refine a working manual that would guide the police in pursuing terrorists. Vincent Cabreza, with a report from Desiree Caluza, Inquirer Northern Luzon


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