POSTSCRIPT / June 7, 2020 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Raids fan opposition to counter-terror bill

SWOOPING down on wide-awake campuses and rounding up protesters in full view of crowds toting smartphones and video cameras may not be the best way to promote the anti-terrorism bill that has aroused widespread opposition.

But the police are never known for tiptoeing around or handling protesters with velvet gloves. So here we are being bombarded on social media with scenes of cops clashing with opponents of the anti-terrorism bill that will soon be on President Duterte’s desk for signature.

The bill’s passage was sped up by the President’s certifying it as urgent and the House’s version merely rubber-stamped from the Senate edition approved in February.

The roughing up of student protesters caught on video became the very validation of warnings that the anti-terrorism bill, intended to tighten the Human Security Act, would lead to repression, violation of civil rights, harsh anti-people measures and a litany of other abuses.

The Black Friday police raid on the University of the Philippines Cebu campus refreshed the lesson that state harassment will not stop student protests, but will even fuel more resentment and dissent. That’s not the way to treat militant youth.

Popping up elsewhere were pictures of jeepney drivers arrested for crowding/protesting on EDSA – contrasted to police officers getting away with partying without wearing masks and keeping distance. The drivers complained they have not been allowed to make pasada (trips) to earn for their daily needs.

So strong was the pushback of public opinion that some lawmakers who had voted for the bill changed their votes to No or Abstention.

Several business groups have expressed united opposition, saying the bill is not needed now and that the government should pay more attention to addressing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on people’s lives and livelihood.

They are the Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference for Human Development, Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines, Investment House Association of the Philippines, Makati Business Club, Judicial Reform Initiative, Management Association of the Philippines, Philippine Business for Education, and the Subdivision and Housing Developers Association Inc.

On Negros island, Bacolod Bishop Patricio Buzon and San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza said that while they recognize the government’s mandate to secure its people against terrorism, this needs to be pursued in a manner that respects human rights.

The Human Rights Watch warned that the Philippines is about to enact a counter-terrorism law that will eliminate critical legal protections and permit government overreach against individuals tagged as terrorists.

Mainstream and social media are bristling with indignation from all quarters over what is feared to be actually an anti-Criticism Bill being rushed while the people are still dazed by their life-and-death brush with the coronavirus scourge.

As I see it, however, at the end of the day what President Duterte wants to happen will come to pass.

• What law orders seniors to stay home?

WILL somebody please cite the specific section in the law – is it RA 11332 or the Bayanihan Act? — prohibiting us senior citizens from going out of our residence in areas listed by a presidential task force under General Community Quarantine (GCQ)?

A news report says that an Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF for short) has promulgated Resolution No. 43 ordering among other things that:

“Any person below 21 years old, those who are 60 years old and above, those with immunodeficiency, comorbidity or other health risks and pregnant women shall be required to remain in their residences at all times. Provided, that all activities and movements allowed under other sections of these guidelines for the foregoing persons shall continue to be permitted under MGCQ (modified GCQ).”

This non-lawyer senior cannot understand why a person’s mobility is to be curtailed on the basis alone of his age by order of an executive panel ostensibly exercising what look like legislative and judicial powers during a public health emergency.

But some personalities are exempted. President Duterte, 75, who sometimes looks sick and tired in his televised chats with the IATF and the ubiquitous senator, is one. He has just traveled 977 air kilometers from home in Davao City, literally flying above the law.

Duterte is surrounded by seniors in his Cabinet who are similarly exempted. Samples: secretaries Salvador Medialdea (OP), 68; Francisco Duque (DoH), 63; Delfin Lorenzana (DND) , 71; Teodoro Locsin (DFA), 71; Arthur Tugade (DoTr), 74; and Leonor Briones (DepEd), 79.

Among those mentioned in the preceding paragraph, btw, are two seniors who, in my opinion, would even make a better president if given the chance. As for Duque, he looks like he might lose his job soon, but not on account of his age.

In the Congress, some prominent seniors are Vicente Sotto, 71; Franklin Drilon, 74; Richard Gordon, 74; Gloria Arroyo, 73; and Rufus Rodriguez, 66. Despite their age, they still look durable and useful – showing that locking seniors home does not always make sense.

These active seniors in key government posts are living arguments that it is a waste of valuable manpower to keep home all those aged 60 years or older. In the private sector there are many more productive seniors.

Statistics show that the mortality rate is higher among Filipinos in the 60-above age bracket. But it has always been like that even before the Chinese coronavirus was let loose upon the world.

Incidentally, Duque issued AO 2012-0007-A last May 6 granting a 20-percent discount and an exemption from the 12-percent value-added tax (VAT) on purchases by seniors of vitamins and mineral supplements prescribed by their physicians.

Before this, seniors enjoyed discounts and VAT exemptions only for prescribed medicines as mandated by RA 9994 or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010 and its implementing rules and regulations.

Duque’s order was in reaction to a letter of lawyer Romy Macalintal, a senior citizens’ advocate who pointed out that RA 9994 and its IRR included vitamins and supplements in the definition of “medicine”.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 7, 2020)

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