In an odious display of the real potential for the bastardization of the country’s newly-minted Anti-Terrorism Law, newly installed Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay said he wants to use that law and it’s implementing rules and regulations to regulate social media.
During a virtual press briefing shortly after officially assuming the post of AFP’s 54th chief of staff, Gapay said his proposal would curb radicalism and radicalization of the youth.
Gapay, who was seated beside Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, told reporters: “We will be providing some inputs on countering violent extremism and likewise, maybe regulating, even regulating social media because this is the platform now being used by terrorists to radicalize, to recruit, and even plan terrorist acts.”
To do this, he sees the need to include specific provisions in the IRR of Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Law. He insists the AFP has a say in the crafting of the IRR because the military is at the forefront of combating terrorism in the country.
The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, one of the few pieces of legislation pushed by the government during this pandemic, already has at least 20 petitions filed against it before the Supreme Court. Various groups have filed the petitions, including legal luminaries such as ex-Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, ex-Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, and various law professors; asking the SC to declare unconstitutional several sections of the law.
The new AFP chief’s intention to weaponize another vaguely crafted law, with the proposal to regulate social media probably just a start, adds emphasis to the fears and concerns of the petitioners with regard to the law.
With government agencies hell bent and excited to wield this new weapon against “terrorism” in as many creative ways as possible, we are now putting our faith in the much-ballyhooed independence of the Supreme Court to make the right decision that will benefit the greatest good as far as the future of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is concerned.*