Filipinos expressed alarm over the suggestion of Sen. Francis Tolentino to require government officials to disclose if they have relatives affiliated with terrorist groups.
“Is it now the right time that we also require when one enters the government through an appointment or an elective position to perhaps declare: do you have a relative within the fourth degree of consanguinity who is a member of a terrorist organization, who is an affiliate of an organization that seeks to overthrow the Republic of the Philippines?” Tolentino asked during the plenary session Tuesday, August 30.
Tolentino’s proposal came after Commission on Higher Education chair Prospero de Vera’s sister, an alleged member of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP-NPA), was arrested on August 24.
The mandate could be abused and used in red-baiting, Filipino social media users suggested, citing the vague definition of terrorism.
“How do u define terrorism first? Mga paraan niyo na naman para makapang-red tag at gawing subersibo ang pumupuna sa inyo. Basura!,” a Twitter user said.
“Before you ask for that, qualify first, ano ang ibig sabihin ng terrorist group. Baka nagrarally lng terorrist agad, red tagging yan! Jusko po,” another wrote.
Some also questioned the viability of the lawmaker’s proposal.
“About as useful as that ‘are you a terrorist?’ check box sa customs and visa forms,” a Twitter user said in jest.
“So how will people go about it? Submit a copy of the relative’s Membership Certificate signed by the terrorist group’s leader?” an online user sarcastically told.
Sen. Loren Legarda, who wants to revive peace talks with communist rebels and a review of the Anti-Terrorism Act, reminded her fellow lawmakers that believing in an ideology is not tantamount to subversion.
“I stand here as someone who has worked with the so-called ‘left’ of this country and has admired many of those who shared the same vision for the country,” Legarda said.
“There is nothing wrong with that. It does not make anyone subversive. In fact, there’s no subversion law. If we are called terrorists for believing in certain beliefs which are considered left, that’s a longer debate,” the senator continued.
Who are terrorist groups?
Aside from these groups, the ATC has also tagged former peace negotiator Luis Jalandoni, five supposed members of communist organizations, and five alleged members of radical Islamist groups Abu Sayyaf and Daulah Islamiyah as terrorists.
The designation is a distinct power of the ATC under Section 25 of the anti-terror Law, different from the court’s power of proscription.
This provision of the anti-terror law made it easier for the state to label a group or a person as a terrorist, skipping the laborious court trial.