(Article published in the
issue of Manila Standard Today)
Republic Act No. 10168’s moorings to our country’s international commitments leap out of the text of the new statute. There is no way an objective reader can conclude otherwise. Critics may wish to call this shameful subservience to foreign interests; I submit it is, instead, dignified compliance with our obligations as a respectable member of the family of nations.
The second paragraph of Section 2, Declaration of Policies, clearly admits that “the State...recognizes and adheres to international commitments to combat the financing of terrorism, specifically to the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, as well as other binding terrorism-related resolutions of the United Nations Security Council pursuant to Chapter 7 of the Charter of the United Nations (UN)”.
In line with this adherence, Section 3 includes in the definition of criminalized terrorism “any act ... which is within the scope of any of the ...treaties of which the Republic of the Philippines is a State party.” There are at least nine of such international agreements and they go from way back to 1970 all the way up to 1997.
The first was
the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft which was
held on 16 December 1970, antedating by almost a year 9/11. The second was
closer to 9/11, the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against
the Safety of Civil Aviation which was done at Montreal on 23 September
1971. Two other agreements, completing the list for the 70s, were against
violence on persons, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of
Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, adopted by the UN General
Assembly on 14 December 1973 and the International Convention against the
Taking of Hostages, also by the UN about six years later.
Four were concluded in the 80s: the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, adopted early March 1980; Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Violence at Airports Serving International Civil Aviation, done in 24 February 1988 and supplementing the Montreal convention in 1971; Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation done in Rome on 10 March 1988, and Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Fixed Platforms located at the Continental Shelf, done and dated on the same day.
On 15 December 1997, there was the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 15 December 1997. All these leave no doubt of the Philippine position against terrorism.
To provide teeth to these commitments, R.A. No. 10168 is given extra-territorial application. Acting as an exception to the general rule that laws are ordinarily effective only within the territorial jurisdiction of the state that enacted them, the criminal provisions of the new law are made to apply to those, who, although physically not in the Philippines, nevertheless (a) commit or plot to commit the crimes punishable under the law; (b) commit said crimes on board Philippine ships or airships; (c) commit said crimes within any embassy, consulate or diplomatic premises belonging to or occupied by the Philippines officially; (d) commit the crimes against Philippine citizens and even persons of Philippine descent, whenever the citizenship or ethnicity was a factor in the commission of the crime, and (e) commit the crimes against the Philippine government. Noteworthy is the obvious balance in the law: extra-territoriality applies not only where the victim is Philippine-related, but also where it is a Filipino national who is the offender.
The matter of extradition is essential to making extra-territoriality effective. Of what use are invocations of international agreements and appeals to universally held norms of civility among nations if, at the end of the day, the offender can, notwithstanding, seek haven in another state that refuses to give up the person of the offender for prosecution, and punishment?
To facilitate extradition, the law gives the government an easy platform. Section 20 says that “’the Philippines may, at its option, subject to the principle of reciprocity, consider the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism as a legal basis for requesting or granting extradition of the offenses set forth under” the law. In cases where, despite the referencing of the legal basis, the state where extradition is requested does not accede to the request, all that needs to be done is the submission of the case to the Department of Justice “for prosecution in the same manner as if the act constituting the offense had been committed in the Philippines, in which case, the courts of the Philippines shall have jurisdiction over the offense.”
All this adhesion to international standards, however, ought not be taken as the grand sell-out of Philippine interests or sovereignty. The first paragraph of Section 2 puts the proper context in which the invocation of foreign commitments is to be read. The overriding policy is the need “to protect life, liberty and property from acts of terrorism...to condemn terrorism...to recognize it as inimical and dangerous to national security and welfare of the people, and to make the financing of terrorism a crime against [first and foremost] the Filipino people, [then] against humanity, and [only thirdly] against the law of nations.”
That statement of priorities, by the sequence of their recitation, clearly demonstrates, in diplomatic but not uncertain words, the hierarchy of values that provide the internal impetus of the law: national interest is primary; international comity secondary.