By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Only terrorists and their supporters are the ones who should fear the enactment of the Anti-Terrorism Bill, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Tuesday.
Sotto said this as he dismissed concerns over the impending passage of the bill that will repeal the Human Security Act of 2007 and strengthen government measures against terrorism.
He was the principal author of Senate Bill No. 1083, whose provisions were adopted by a House of Representatives panel recently.
Progressive and human rights groups raised alarm that the measure would pave the way for abuses, as it seeks to ease restrictions for law enforcers and provide for longer detention time for suspected terrorists and their allies without charges.
Critics also took to social media their fear that the bill could be used to silence dissent, saying the mere voicing out of opinions against the government will easily be tagged as an act of terrorism.
“I suggest they read the bill first before reacting. Terrorists or their supporters are the only ones who will be afraid of the bill,” he said in a message to the Manila Bulletin.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the Senate Defense Committee and sponsor of SB No. 1083, also maintained that the bill contains enough safeguards to protect human rights and prevent abuses.
President Duterte, on Monday, certified as urgent the House version of the anti-terrorism bill. The certification will allow Congress to approve and ratify the measure before its scheduled sine die adjournment on June 5.
“It’s as good as passed. It will just need my signature if it comes back to us after ratification then I will transmit to the President,” Sotto said in a separate text message.