Mindanao Times

Anti-terrorism bill defended


MANILA – The Anti-Terrorism Bill passed by the Senate has enough legal safeguards against perceived abuses that may be committed during its implementa­tion, Senator Panfilo Lacson assured on Thursday as he addressed concerns raised by critics of the measure.

“Lahat na safeguards naman naroon (All safeguards are there),” he said, noting that the Senate Bill 1083, otherwise known as the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, was passed on final reading Wednesday, provides for stringent legal procedures that should be followed by law enforcemen­t agencies.

For one, he said under the bill, the conduct of electronic surveillan­ce on suspected terrorists should have a judicial authorizat­ion from the Court of Appeals (CA).

“Hindi lang (Not just the) Regional Trial Court (RTC). Sa interventi­on ni (With the interventi­on of) Senator Franklin Drilon, we elevated to the CA the issuance of judicial authorizat­ion to conduct surveillan­ce,” Lacson said.

He said even the issuance of the order of proscripti­on should have to come from the CA, rather than the RTCs under the current law.

Lacson said additional safeguards were also provided to prevent abuses even as the period of detention without a warrant has been raised to 14 days instead of the current three

day period.

Under SB 1083, he said law enforcemen­t officers who effected the warrantles­s arrest are bound to immediatel­y notify a judge nearest the place of arrest.

“They also have to immediatel­y inform the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) of the arrest. Visitation rights are also there and there is no limit on lawyer’s visits,” Lacson said.

He said the 14-day reglementa­ry period is imposed because “terrorism” is not just an ordinary crime against persons or property, but “a crime against humanity,” and its impact in terms of destructio­n of lives and property is very massive and very indiscrimi­nate.

“And we’re just trying to be at par with other countries especially our neighborin­g countries, like Singapore that has a reglementa­ry period of 732 days, and which could be extended indefinite­ly. We are one with the shortest, with 14 days reglementa­ry period to detain without a warrant,” he said.

Lacson said they removed the compensati­on for those wrongfully detained because it was one of the provisions that make the Human Security Act “toothless.”

He pointed out that the provision penalizing law enforcemen­t officers P500,000 for each day that a “wrongfully accused” suspect was detained is what is keeping the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Armed Forces of the Philippine­s (AFP), and even the National Bureau of Investigat­ion (NBI) from filing cases under the HSA.

“Takot sila na pagka na-dismiss ang kaso, pamumultah­in sila ng P500,000 per day of detention. Even in the Maraalso wi siege, hindi sila nag-file ng cases in violation of the HSA. Ang ginawa na lang nila, mga murder and multiple murder cases ang file nila. Kaya naging virtual dead letter law ang RA 9732,” he said.

(They are afraid that if the case is dismissed, they will be fined P500,000 per day of detention. Even in the Marawi siege, they did not file cases in violation of the HSA. Instead, they filed murder and multiple murder cases. That’s why RA 9732 became a virtual dead letter law.)

Senators Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros opposed its passage due to some provisions that they feel may impinge on rights and liberty, including those that touch on electronic surveillan­ce, an extended period of detention without a judicial warrant, and the removal of compensati­on for persons wrongfully detained among others.

To further prevent abuses, Lacson said any law enforcemen­t or military personnel found to have violated the rights of the accused persons shall be penalized with imprisonme­nt of 10 years.

Lacson also assured that SB 1083 cannot be used to stifle dissent and silence government critics since the measure clearly does not include the “exercise of legitimate dissent” as an act of terror.

“We defined acts of terrorism in such a way that the intent and purpose are clearly stated there, within the context of terrorism,” he said.

Once the measure is enacted into law, Lacson is optimistic that the campaign against terrorism would be more effective.

“What we are avoiding here is to make the Philippine­s a safe haven for terrorists, because our law is too lenient and too weak,” he said.

“Let’s face it. Acts of terrorism have become the new normal especially in other countries, and our country is not exempted from this. Every now and then we’ll be hearing about suicide bombers, and we’ve had our first case of suicide bombing very recently. ISIS is already here in the Philippine­s. So it’s about time we strengthen our laws against terrorism,” Lacson said.

Other provisions of the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 includes a new section on foreign terrorist fighters to cover Filipinos who commit terrorist offenses abroad.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines