By Jeffrey Damicog
The Anti-Terrorism bill’s 14-day detention provision was adopted from countries with the shortest detention period for suspected terrorists, Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson said on Monday, June 8.
“We adopted the most lenient yung Australia and Sri Lanka na 14 days (from Australia and Sri Lanka which have 14 days),” said Lacson, chairman of the Senate national defense and security committee, in an interview with CNN Philippines.
Lacson reminded that under the current rules those arrested without arrest warrants can only be held for up to 36 hours and should be released if no charges have been filed in court.
“We extended it because other jurisdictions have longer reglamentary period,” the lawmaker said.
Lacson cited Malaysia can hold suspects for 59 days to two years, Indonesia from 21 days to 120 days, Singapore 730 days up to indefinite length of time.
During the Senate hearings on the bill, he recounted that law enforcement agencies wanted a 30-day detention period but turned them down.
Also under the bill, Lacson said law enforcement officers who made the warrantless arrest should inform the court within 24 hours about it.
“By the simple wrongful act of not informing the nearest judge, the policeman who conducted the arrest faces the possibiltiy of getting imprisoned for 10 years and be given perpetual absolute disqualification sa public service,” he said.
Lacson pointed out this provision in the bill is not found in laws concerning other crimes and offenses.
The senator added that the bill also allows law enforcement officers to seek an extension of 10 days for the detention but will have to secure the approval of the nearest court.
Also, Lacson assured that those arrested but eventually cleared of charges “can still seek legal redress from the court and file damages against the police officers.”
Lacson also reminded that law enforcement officers can also face charges of murder and violation of the Anti-Torture Act for abuses committed during a person’s detention.
Meanwhile, Lacson assured government critics that under the bill they will not get arrested if they are conducting peaceful protests.
“We are guided by the Bill of Rights, yung no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, the freedom of expression, tsaka yung to peacably assemble, to air their grievances to the government,” he stated.
The Anti-Terrorism bill also provides for the creation of the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) which will be comprised of the executive secretary as chairperson, national security adviser as vice chairperson, foreign affairs secretary, defense secretary, interior secretary, finance secretary, justice secretary, information and communications secretary, and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) executive director.
Lacson assured the ATC only has administrative powers and no judicial and quasi-judicial powers that would allow it to order the arrests of those suspected as terrorists.
The lawmaker pointed out the ATC can only order the arrests of persons who have been declared by the United Nations (UN) and other jurisdictions as terrorists.
“Once a foreign terrorist comes to the Philippines at designated siya ng United Nations pwede naman talaga siya arestuhin under this act (A foreign terrorist who has been designated by the UN can be arrested under this bill) and we if have enough evidence to prosecute him here we may do so,” he explained.
“If not, we will just have to deport that terrorist to the country where he came from,” he added.
Lacson pointed out the ATC is needed to freeze the assets of arriving terrorists so they won’t the capability to commit terrorism in the country.