Proposed anti-subversion law a ‘repressive weapon’ – law group

MANILA, Philippines – An alliance of lawyers and law students slammed the proposal to revive of the Anti-Subversion Law, describing the move "unconstitutional, discriminatory, and contradictory to the democratic process."

 A hallmark of the law, which was first enacted in the 1950's at the height of the Huk insurgency, was making it illegal to be a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

In a statement released on Saturday, August 17, the Manananggol Laban sa EJK (Manlaban sa EJK) said “a proposed anti-subversion law becomes a repressive weapon” at a time when dissenters and government critics are “lumped as New Peoples Army (NPA) supporters or as ouster plotters.”  

Reviving the law could easily put such dissenters at risk of being “arrested for imagined crimes,” the group said. 

On Tuesday, August 13, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año told the Senate committee on national defense and security that reviving the Anti-Subversion Law was necessary to end the communist rebellion in the country.

Año said he wanted the measure to specifically target the CPP and leftist groups that supposedly serve as the party's "front organizations."  Law enforcers want to crack down on the alleged recruitment and kidnapping of minors by leftist groups to enlist them in the NPA, the CPP's armed wing. 

Manlaban sa EJK said: “Laws are repealed for good reason, and to revive such dead law will simply revive the horrors that came with it when it was first promulgated.” 

Passed in June 1957 when the Hukbalahap movement was gaining traction, the Anti-Subversion Law declared the CPP and any affiliation to it illegal. It was repealed by then-president Fidel Ramos some 4 decades later as peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF) began.

Ramos said: “By assuring communist insurgents of political space, we also challenge them to compete under our constitutional system and free market of ideas – which are guaranteed by the rule of law.”

The law group said in its statement: “We, the Manlaban sa EJK, believe that the reimposition of the Anti-Subversion Law is unconstitutional, discriminatory, and contradictory to the democratic process.”

According to the group, the Anti-Subversion Law goes against Article 2, Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution, which states: “no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances." 

Reviving the law would mean that mere distribution of material deemed by the Duterte administration as communist propaganda can constitute an act of subversion, said the group. (READ: Lawmakers warn anti-terrorism bill seeks to 'normalize' martial law in PH)

The law would also violate Article 3, Section 22, which states that no “ex post facto law or bill of attainder shall be enacted.” A bill of attainder is a legislative act declaring a person or group of persons guilty of some crime and prescribes their punishment without trial or reception of evidence. 

“At its core, it is a dangerous discretion, because it usually does not take into consideration the independent judgment that the courts should ideally arrive at,” the group said.

The group also sees a violation of the equal protection clause of the Bill of Rights (Article 3, Section 1) in the proposed revival of the law. While the equal rights provision is not absolute, the group said, “to indiscriminately lump these groups together will deny the rights of the people to the equal protection of the laws.”

Calling the proposed revival undemocratic, the group said: “To remove from these people their right to petition for redress and to organize might prove to be far more dangerous in the long run. Mere affiliation in any organization is not a crime, and to render it criminal will precisely create the evil it avoids.”

Bringing back the Anti-Subversion Law also “practically destroys the peace process,” putting to waste decades of talks between the government and communist guerillas. – Rappler.com