Another voice has been added to those proposing the return of the anti-subversion law: this time, it is Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año’s. Senators however, expressed concern that the return of the law would only infringe on individual rights guaranteed by the 1987 Constitution.
The said law had been taken advantage of by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who used to silence his critics. Linked to numerous human violations during the MArcos dictatorship, the law was repealed in 1992.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chair of the Senate national defense and security committee, immediately shot down the proposal.
The proposal aims to reinstate Republic Act No. 1700, which criminalized mere membership in the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and other similar groups.
“I’m not inclined to support it [because] it encroaches on the fundamental right to peaceful assembly, to protest. I don’t think I will support that,” Lacson said.
Resume peace with the rebels
Sen. Christopner “Bong” Go, former special assistant to President Rodrigo Duterte, also rejected Año’s idea even as the government continues to receive criticism from communist and progressive groups.
Go said that it would only hinder the government’s efforts to reach a peace agreement with the communist rebels.
“I’m in favor of [resuming] peace talks [with the CPP] … Right now, I’m not in favor of reviving the anti-subversion law,” he said.
Speaking at a Senate hearing presided over by Lacson on Tuesday, Año said bringing back the anti-subversion law would help state forces to overcome the communist insurgency and further stop militant organizations from recruiting students.
“It would be better if both the recruiters and organization are held accountable. But there is no law that outlaws the CPP,” Año explained to Lacson.
He urged the senators to pass a bill that shall implement the purpose and power of the anti-subversion law.
Lacson rebutted the secretary, however, saying that strengthening RA 9372, or the Human Security Act of 2007, would be sufficient to answer the communist insurgency and related security threats to the country.
Año’s suggestion was not among the proposed amendments to the antiterrorism law, which primarily aims to hinder or contain violent Islamic extremism, Lacson further said.
“If you only join organizations like Kabataan Partylist or Anakbayan, I don’t see any problem with that. Except of course [if] they are also violating the law for recruiting minors,” said the former police chief-turned-senator.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Risa Hontiveros also vowed to block any attempt to bring back the law to hold subversives.
Sen. Grace Poe likewise joined those opposing Año’s proposal.
“We need to protect our democracy and we cannot use our laws to curtail free speech,” she said.
In the House of Representatives, militant lawmakers denounced Año’s proposal, calling it a “throwback to the Marcosian dictatorship.”
House Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Isagani Zarate, a member of the progressive partylist group Bayan Muna, said Año’s “militarist proposal” would “mean more violations of human rights, as this will definitely curtail our freedom of association, our freedom of expression and our freedom of assembly.”
Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat said reviving the anti-subversion law would be like putting the whole country under martial law.
“They have unreasonably prolonged the imposition of martial law in Mindanao, and now they want it imposed all over the country,” Cullamat said.
Mere membership in the CPP is not a crime “unless overt criminal acts are committed,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra explained, opposing the secretary’s proposal.