Albay rep withdraws “yes” vote for anti-terrorism act

Published June 6, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Ben Rosario

Another senior administration congressman changed his mind and decided to withdraw his “yes” vote for the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, firming up further the arguments against the controversial measure.

Albay 2nd District Representative Joey Salceda (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)
Albay 2nd District Representative Joey Salceda (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

In a letter to House Secretary General Jose Luis Montales, Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, chairman of the House committee on ways and means, asked on Friday (June 5) that his vote be amended to “abstention.”

The move followed a decision by Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon to withdraw as co-author of House Bill (HB) No. 6875 or the proposed Anti-Terrorism Law that was passed on third and final reading on Wednesday.

Salceda said he voted in the affirmative with reservation. Pointing out that while the bill would be of help the country in fighting terrorism, “some definitions must be tightened to ensure the protection of the rights of the people.”

“Provisions inconsistent with human rights and the 1987 Constitution must also be amended,” he said.

Rejected by many solons for its “broad and vague” definition of a terrorist act, HB 6875 was approved on final reading despite registering what may be recorded as the largest number of “negative” votes and abstentions among legislative measures supported by the Duterte administration during the 18th Congress.

A total 173 congressmen voted in the affirmative for passage of the measure. On the other hand, 31 congressmen registered their negative votes while 29 refused to vote.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the vote record and the strong arguments pointing to the constitutional defects of the approved measure should be enough to convince Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano not to sign “with alacrity the enrolled bill.”

“Even the declaration of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque that a prior thorough review of the constitutional issues concerning the bill will be conducted by the Office of the President before the controversial measure is submitted for presidential action also justifies the holding in abeyance the transmittal of the enrolled bill,” Lagman, a staunch critic of the measure, stated.

In changing his vote, Salceda expressed misgivings over the definition of “terrorism” under the bill. Acts of terrorism are punishable with life imprisonment under the proposal.

“Unfortunately, the provisions on ‘threat’ under Section 5, ‘preparing’ under Section 6, and ‘recruitment to and membership in a terrorist organization’ under Section 10 “are vague and could give rise to various interpretations,” Salceda explained.

He also complained that the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) that will be created under the measure will arrogate the powers reserved to the judiciary, such as ordering the arrest of suspected terrorists.

“Further, since the ATC will be composed of the implementers, its members could not possibly be objective in its decisions,” Salceda warned.

Like Biazon and other critics of the bill, Salceda also criticized Section 29 that grants police a total of 24 days to detain a suspect without filing charges in court.

HB 6875 is an exact copy of the Senate bill that the Lower House passed to pave the way for the swift enactment of the legislative proposal.

Certified by President Duterte as an urgent administration measure, HB 6875, when passed into law, will be the Philippines’ response to the demand of the international anti-money laundering watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for stronger laws that will help combat terrorist activities and terrorism finance.