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‘Designated Terrorists’ and the acoustics of terror

By Joel Pablo Salud Published Oct 21, 2020 8:08 am Updated Oct 21, 2020 8:46 am

To be taken for a fool is one thing; to be designated a terrorist quite another.

In this fight ring of the absurd, no matter how the rules apply, the match is slanted from the very start to favor the powerful. Why? Because to designate is power. To point a finger and heap blame on a person of interest outside the explorations of due process is power.

To be at the receiving end of that stiff, self-righteous finger means the burden of proving one’s innocence lies solely on you.

In a democracy, the burden of proof lies with the accuser. In Duterte’s topsy-turvy regime, proof is an incumbrance too expensive to waste energy and money on. Thus, the burden is passed on to the accused.

In Duterte’s upside-down world where the presumption of guilt outstrips the presumption of innocence of its intention, that power is absolute. Absolutely real. Absolutely effective in sowing fear.

Absolutely unconstitutional.

That’s what the Anti-Terrorism Law sets out to achieve from the start: to flout the very nature and disposition on which our laws are built. It snags, gags and humiliates, makes a laughing stock of those presumed guilty prior to any attempt by the State to either prove or disprove its accusations.

In a democracy, the burden of proof lies with the accuser. In Duterte’s topsy-turvy regime, proof is an incumbrance too expensive to waste energy and money on. Thus, the burden is passed on to the accused.

All our efforts to make things right pale beside the animosity of the State against any and all forms of criticism. Why is a question we’ve failed to answer in the last four years.

Here we see the impatience of the State to legalize, institutionalize, and evermore aggrandize its role as judge, jury and executioner.

The word enemies, however, requires a more specific definition. Laws being what they are, penned usually in broad strokes, leave most people none the wiser. It’s within this winding laboratory of ignorance and confusion that the State tests our resolve and mines our fears, using every trick in the book to enlarge the distances between us.

Unifying courage is interwoven ‘round our ability to tell apart what is false from the true, what is real and what is fictitious. Ignorance divides, cuts the whole into bite-size pieces and renders whatever is left of our tenacity brittle, if not simply alone to fend for itself.

Where we lie disheveled, tousled every which way, nothing of what we share in common matters. Not our rights. Not our dignity. Not our humanity.

Each one is now left to contest his right to life and innocence singlehandedly against a force whose resources, manpower and political machinery—to say nothing of legalese—are all designed to wage war on the weak.

This is our grim reality under the Anti-Terrorism Law: that we must prove our innocence prior to any act worthy of the crime. The logic is merciless: that the public must first be deemed enemies of the State, the very same ones who granted it power and resources its nemeses.

This acoustic of terror is uncanny. It justifies in the mind of the politician that since we are his adversary, the act of running off with the public coffers, is not only de rigueur but justified. Well-nigh his entitlement.

The State, guiltless by presumption to begin with, likewise uses this logic to warrant the liquidation of its “enemies” until all that’s necessary for corruption to win runs full circle.

But like any other law dead set on restricting our rights, the Anti-Terrorism Law is an admission of failure. Above all, the failure of the State to address the underlying causes of raising a grievance—itself.

Filipinos aren’t poor because they lacked the resilience to improve their lot in life. Filipinos are poor because they’ve been systematically robbed at gunpoint all across different administrations.

Corruption rarely leave any fingerprint. The little that we have as evidence linking State dignitaries to acts of fraud, exploitation and violence give us as all the more reason to raise a continuing grievance.

However, this raising of grievances, being smoking guns, leads to the presumption that we are guilty as charged of “terrorizing” a government largely presumed to be innocent by their own kind.

The Anti-Terrorism Law is the vaudeville wherein human dignity is cast as the first to die.

Question is, how long must we put up with it?

Banner image by Edd Gumban