Robredo: Anti-terror bill 'prone to abuse'

By Joseph Almer Pedrajas

Vice President Leni Robredo has expressed her alarm over the passing of the anti-terrorism bill, which she said might be prone to abuse considering that "there was unfair implementation of the law" over the past few months.

Vice President Leni Robredo (OVP / MANILA BULLETIN) Vice President Leni Robredo

Robredo pointed to the arrest of six jeepney drivers for staging a protest in Caloocan and the non-arrest of "a police general who had a party without social distancing" as among the reasons for her alarm over the selective justice enforced by the law enforcement agencies.

"Nakikita natin, over the past few months...parang seemingly hindi patas yung pag-implement ng batas. Halimbawa, nakita natin na merong police general na nagkaroon ng party na walang social distancing, tapos parang wala lang (What we've been seeing over the past few months, it seems like the law is not being implemented fairly. For example, we have seen that there was a police general who held a party without social distancing, then nothing was done about it)," Robredo said in an interview with online news platform Now You Know on Saturday night (June 6).

She was referring to Metro Manila police chief Debold Sinas, who received backlash following the celebration amid community quarantine of his birthday party, which he called only a "mañanita" (morning gathering).

"Sa nakikita natin, itong mahihirap -- na kung ilalagay natin sa konteksto kung bakit nga nila ginagawa yung ginagawa nila -- kasi nakikipaglaban sila para mabuhay. Parang walang compassion (Based on what we're seeing, the poor -- if we put into context why they do what they do -- are fighting to survive. There seems to be no compassion)," she said.

Robredo, who is also a lawyer, said this is the reason why people are currently feeling "discontent" with the country's justice system, and are concerned about the looming passing of the anti-terrorism bill.

"Ang nangyayari kasi ngayon... merong mga officials na hindi sumusunod, na walang nangyayari sa kanya... Ang tao mag-co-cooperate 'pag naiintindihan nya kung bakit kailangan natin itong gawin at nakikita niya, rich or poor pareho 'yung ngipin ng batas (What's happening now is there are officials who do not follow the law but are not being held accountable. People will follow the law if they understand what it is for and they see that it's being fairly implemented regardless if you're rich or poor)," she said.

The vice president also called out the vagueness of several provisions of the bill, which she said might lead to wrongful arrests.

"There is not enough na (of a) safety net . Pag ganon, sobrang (If that's the case, it is too) prone to abuse," Robredo said, referring to the absence of punishment for law enforcers who might make wrongful arrests.

For the vice president, it is important to listen first to the voices of those who have been able to directly deal with terrorists, particularly those in Mindanao, before coming up with the new law.

Citing suggestions of representatives from Mindanao, Robredo said what is needed "to quell terrorism" are good governance, education, employment and livelihood, and a stronger justice system.

"Ito 'yung sasagot sa terrorism, hindi yung batas na nagbibigay ng opportunities for more abuse. Ito yung mga boses na dapat nating pagbigyan (This is the answer to terrorism, not a law that gives opportunities for more abuse. This is the voice we need to listen to)," she added.