by Jose Sealtiel Cruz

Poser accounts are usually something I see based after local and international celebrities, and in greater numbers whenever they are dragged into “newsworthy” issues. This Sunday, however, I spent the whole morning scrolling through friend after friend posting a declaration that “this is my real account” and to “report all suspicious accounts” bearing their names.

So far, four friends from my barkada reported having at least one fake account.

It is easy to suspect that these fake accounts are created to spread fear. Before Sunday, the country has seen various demonstrations and many statements urging the government to heed the same call: junk the (Anti-)Terrorism Bill for being broad and vague and focus on more pressing issues, among other valid points. If the mass fakes were created to suppress these voices of legitimate concern, I must say it is a laughable effort with concerning repercussions.

The fake accounts are, according to NBI, due to a glitch. Never have I heard of a glitch that can send semi-comprehensible death threats through Messenger in our native language – jejespeak, in some cases – or one that is aware that the user is voicing out dissent against the bill.

However, given the current letter of the Terror Bill (Secs. 4-6, 8-10), the fake accounts can be set up to have the real person arrested – warrantless – over mere suspicion to commit terrorism and be jailed for up to 24 days without charges pressed and only by the word of the Anti-Terror Council (Sec. 29). The 1987 Constitution allows a suspect to be held for a maximum of three days, with a caveat: it is only allowed when the state is under martial law (Art. VII, Sec. 18).

The bill, for what it is worth, is blatantly unconstitutional. Senator Lacson defends the letter of the bill by saying that this is patterned after the same laws of the United States and Australia tackling terrorism and follows United Nations standards. Secretary Año, Lorenzana, and PNP Chief Gamboa assure the public that the law will not be abused.

These statements are rich, to say the very least. The PNP has not been subtle on brutality and ineptitude, ultimately bringing the death of ex-Army Winston Ragos (while planting a gun on him) and Kian Delos Santos, running a vehicle over protesters, and being the president’s trusted lapdog in his war on drugs, among the horrific accolade under their belt – all while allowing Debold Sinas throw a party while the country is in a lockdown.

If it is not clear, let me say it plainly: the police proves itself hard, if not impossible, to trust. If they can circumvent current laws, what more with legislation that casts such a wide net on who can be branded as terrorists? Is the P500,000 fine for wrongly branding suspects as terrorists, as stipulated in the Human Security Act, a problem if they are, as they claim, competent?

This is not the time to argue about good cops – good individuals – in an inhumane institution.

The Anti-Terrorism Bill is as much a trust issue as it is a technicality issue. This goes beyond the police: Congress, where the president enjoys a supermajority, has incorrectly tallied votes over the measure done through a session done both physically and in Zoom – while some cast votes in Viber. Some of them withdrew votes after their constituents expressed backlash or was enlightened. Welcome as it is, do they read before voting?

And like a thief in the night, the leaders of both House and Senate signed the bill and sent a copy to the president for approval.

The government has more than enough resources in hunting down terrorists. They even formed the NTF-ELCAC to crack down on communist fronts – so far, it has red-tagged organizations without presenting solid evidence like a Stormtrooper shooting in the dark, all while the Anti-Terrorism Bill is making the rounds in the legislative.

Talk about timing.

Their unwillingness to exhaust currently available mechanisms before declaring that they need better tools signals a not so well-hidden agenda. Perhaps they should save their breath and roll out better healthcare policies instead of trying to silence the clamor of the people while they fumble in handling a healthcare crisis.

I cannot trust a loophole-filled law that sacrifices quality over “urgency.” I cannot trust law enforcers and their dubious history implementing such a law. I cannot trust that a fake account will not get me, or my friends, in jail over a fake act of supporting terrorism.

The poser issue is more than a poser issue – coupling it with the “right” law makes it a weapon against dissent.

If I am lucky, I hope to see you around after the lockdown. Otherwise, visit me in jail.

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