By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa is now pushing to amend a provision in the Anti-Terrorism Law that prescribes for the reglementary period of detention for suspected terrorists.
Dela Rosa made the call during the hearing of the Senate committee on national defense and security chaired by Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, saying law enforcement personnel should be allowed to detain the suspected terrorists for at least 30 days sans a valid court order.
Dela Rosa said that considering the complexities of investigating terror acts, a longer period of detention for suspects could help a lot in the process of gathering solid pieces of evidence that would eventually indict them in court.
Under Republic Act 9372, the Human Security Act of 2007, suspected terrorists may not be detained for more than three days without judicial warrant of arrest.
“I hope lawmakers are able to revisit this reglementary period for terrorism offenses. If we are given even just one week, we can collect solid evidence(s) to indict the suspect,” Dela Rosa said.
“However, law enforcers are only given 36 hours. After that, they should release the suspect if there is no solid evidence. Otherwise, we will be liable of arbitrary detention,” he said.
The former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief cited an instance when during his stint as police director of Davao City, they were able to arrest one foreign national believed to be involved in terror activities.
But in accordance with the law, they were forced to release the suspect within the prescribed time due to insufficient evidence. He said the suspect was seen a year later in an online video post beheading a hapless German journalist in Syria.
“I called on the military intelligence to help me and provide the necessary evidence to indict the suspect, but we needed to release the person because of the existing law,” Dela Rosa noted.
“Kung naiayos natin ang batas na ito, sana we could have saved lives (If we were able to fix this law, we could have saved lives),” he explained.
The proposed 30 days reglementary period would also serve as a good disruptive measure for counteractions to prevent imminent attacks by terrorists.
“Thirty days is really enough time for the security sector to conduct a thorough probe, to conduct follow up operations and counteractions,” the neophyte lawmaker said.
“Our experience proves that once we capture a hardcore terrorist, it would really take some time before we could extract relevant and useful information. Three days is not enough,” he stressed.