By Ben Rosario
Two House of Representatives committees voted Friday to amend the Human Security Act (HSA) of 2007 by adopting the Senate version of the measure in order to fast-track plenary approval.
With 42 affirmative votes and 4 negative votes, the House Committees on Public Order and Safety and on Defense and Security agreed to deliberate on the Senate version that was approved early this year.
The Senate version authorizes law enforcement agencies to detain or hold for questioning a suspected terrorist or violator of the HSA for 14 days that may be extended for another 10 days through a court order.
The Senate bill also allows surveillance of a suspect for 60 days, using various surveillance tools. The surveillance period may be extended by another 30 days.
“I feel that there is urgency in passing this bill that is why I am voting in the affirmative,” said Deputy Speaker and Pangasinan Rep. Conrado Estrella III.
The House leadership advised the joint panel to swiftly act on the bill in order to meet the deadline in October 2020 set by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force for the passage of a stronger anti-terrorism law.
“We have to approve today a bill that is similar to the Senate bill to avoid the necessity to convene a bicameral conference committee. The House leadership asked us to pass it, urgency of this bills requires to approve it,” said Rep. Narciso Bravo Jr., security and safety panel chairman.
However, Makabayan bloc members headed by Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Zarate slammed the bill for further opening new avenues in committing human rights abuses against critics of the government.
The decision to adopt the Senate version in effect dropped discussions for House Bill 0482 that proposes the complete repeal of the existing HSA that Makabayan solons jointly filed.
At least four other filed bills that propose stronger anti-terrorism measures will also no longer be discussed by the joint panel.
Authors of the bills included Deputy Speaker Michael Romero (1Pacman Partylist) and Rep. Rozzano Rufino Biazon (NP, Muntinlupa City).
The Senate version defines terrorism as a crime of engaging in acts for the purpose of instilling fear and seriously destabilize structure sin the country through the following:
- Causing death and serious bodily harm or injuries to any persons or endangers a person’s life
- Causing extensive damage or destruction to a government or public facility public place, private property
- Causing extensive interferences with, damage or destruction to critical infrastructure
Senators also approved the bill that repeals a provision of the existing HSA that penalizes the state with a fine of P500,000 per day of wrongful detention of an innocent person.
Romero’s bill proposes a penalty of 20 years imprisonment for persons found guilty of being an accomplice to a terrorist act. A 12-year prison term will be meted out for those accused of being an accessory.
To protect the innocent, Romero called for the imposition of 20 years imprisonment for persons found guilty of furnishing false evidence, forged documents, and spurious evidence.
Acts of testifying with false or untruthful statement or misrepresentation of facts in a joint affidavit will penalize the guilty with 12 years prison term.
In his bill, Biazon proposed the arrest of any material witness who will refuse to testify. He also sought the suspension and cancellation of passport of the accused and the restriction of travel for those who have posted bail.