MANILA — The former governor of Tarlac and now a reserve colonel of the Philippine Army found loopholes in Republic Act 9372 or the Human Security Act (HSA) of 2007.
In a statement Wednesday, former Tarlac Gov. Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco stressed the need to replace HSA with a new law that has more teeth to curb terror threats and acts.
Cojuangco lamented that to date, leaders and members of terror groups like Abu Sayyaf Group continue to commit unlawful activities since they were only charged with “ordinary crimes” under the Revised Penal Code.
“The Human Security Act was inefficient to classify their crimes as acts of terrorism,” she said.
Cojuangco issued the statement amid strong opposition of some individuals and groups to the passage of the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act that would effectively repeal HSA.
Expressing support for the enactment of the anti-terror bill, Cojuangco noted that only one person has been convicted since RA 9372 was signed into law in 2007.
Cojuangco also cited the case of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers who died in a bloody encounter with Moro rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25, 2015.
She said the 2015 Mamasapano clash should serve as a “frightening reminder of the danger afflicted on government troops; fathers, brothers, and sons in law enforcement.”
“The Human Security Act of 2007 has done an injustice to the SAF 44,” she said.
She added that even the widows of SAF commandos have sought revisions to HSA.
Quoting the families of the slain SAF troopers, Cojuangco said Section 50 of RA 9372 is “anathema to the principle and underlying constitutional policy of affording protection to life, liberty, and property”.
Section 50 of RA 9372 states that an acquitted person accused of being involved in terror acts is entitled to the payment of damages worth PHP500,000 for every day he or she has been detained or deprived of liberty or arrested sans a warrant.
The same provision of the law provides that the amount of damages will be automatically charged against the appropriations of the police agency or the Anti-Terrorism Council that brought or sanctioned the filing of the charges against the accused.
Injustice to SAF 44 widows
“The widows of SAF 44 felt the brunt of this injustice,” Cojuangco said.
Cojuangco said the widows are likewise dismayed that the indemnification under RA 7309 is only up to PHP10,000.
Under Section 4 of RA 7309, the Board of Claims may approve a claim not exceeding PHP10,000 to reimburse the expenses incurred by the victims of violent crimes for “hospitalization, medical treatment, loss of wage, loss of support or other expenses directly related to the injury, whichever is lower”.
“Our law should mean to deter wrongdoings, and its penalty is a discouragement for the commission of crimes ahead. In the same manner, our laws, to be effective, should be just and fair for everyone. Our laws should not be the source of exaltation and refuge for known terrorists and criminals,” Cojuangco said, citing the widows’ letter to Solicitor General Jose Calida included in her book “Oplan Exodus: The Story of The Gallant 44”.
An enrolled copy of the anti-terror bill from Congress was already transmitted to Malacañang on Tuesday.
The legal department of the office of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea has started reviewing the provisions of the proposed anti-terror bill. (PNA)