Monday, June 15, 2020

Democracy is alive in PH, says National Security Adviser

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 15, 2020): Democracy is alive in PH, says National Security Adviser (By Melinda T. Quinones)

National Security Adviser National Security Adviser Secretary Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. speaking before the media in a press briefing this afternoon

QUEZON CITY, June 15 (PIA) -- Democracy is alive in the country, National Security Adviser Secretary Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. assured, in light of the current public debate on the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 or House Bill 6875.

“Ako ay naniniwala sa kakayanan at kredibilidad ng Supreme Court kaya kung anong desisyon nila we will abide by that... dito sa Pilipinas, buhay ang rule of law. Buhay ang demokrasya. Hindi namin ipinipilit ito [at] hindi din naman natin sila pinipigilan. They can always go to the Supreme Court. Bring it there,” he said referring to those who oppose its enactment.

In a media briefing this afternoon, Secretary Esperon differentiated activism and terrorism to put broader context into the argument arising from Anti-Terrorism Bill.

He mentioned that the Philippines has been a staging ground for extremist terrorist organizations due to lax counterterrorism laws, citing the existence of Abu Sayaff in Mindanao and National People’s Army (NPA) in several provinces in Luzon and Visayas.

“Terrorism often ends up in blood[shed]... To broader extent, communities suffer due to the threat. Terrorism has displaced communities, has left properties ruined. Families are being torn apart,” Secretary Esperon said.

Amid the pandemic, he said, terrorism continues to sow fear among the locals and attacks uniformed men in the latest encounter between Abu Sayaff and the Philippine Army in Patikul, Sulu, leaving four soldiers dead and 17 others injured.

Meanwhile, around 30 members of NPA attacked 18 soldiers conducting relief operations in Quezon on March 28, 2020. These atrocities, he added, exposed the heartlessness of these terrorists and underscored the genuine need for legislative reform to address violent extremism in the country.

As one of the proponents pushing for Anti-Terrorism Act as “priority legislation,” Secretary Esperon ensured those people who have apprehensions that the Bill guarantees civil liberties and constitutional rights of citizens. The government will not use this law against those protesting with legitimate concerns, he added.

“Ipinagbawal ba natin ang June 12 protest sa University Avenue? Hindi naman ‘di ba? Magprotesta kayo. Gawain ko din ‘yan noong nasa Philippine Science High School ako,” he said while citing the good result of their protest. But in the process, he clarified that he never wanted to overthrow the government through armed resistance.

He said it is important for the country to have a system that classifies what a terrorist is. If there is no terrorism in provincial areas, he added that this may push more businesses to invest there, which will eventually lead to better economic performance.

He challenged the critics of Anti-Terrorism Bill to read it thoroughly to learn that activism is not terrorism.

“I challenge you to read it. You will find out that your apprehensions will be answered by the Bill... aktibo ang terorismo sa Mindanao. Pakinggan naman natin sila. Pakinggan din natin ang mga sundalo dahil sila rin naman ay gustong umuwi [sa kanilang pamilya],” he explained. (MTQ/PIA-IDPD)

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