Anti-Terror bill now in Malacañang for PRRD’s signature — Sotto

Published June 9, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin


By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

The proposed Anti-Terrorism Act is now in Malacañang awaiting President Duterte’s signature.

Senator Vicente Sotto III (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)
Senator Vicente Sotto III
(Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Senate President Vicente Sotto III confirmed to reporters on Tuesday that the final copy of the bill has been transmitted to Malacañang for the President’s approval.

Sotto said he and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano both signed the bill last night. “[It’s] on the way this morning (June 9) to [President Duterte],” he told the Manila Bulletin.

The Anti-Terror Bill seeks to strengthen the government’s measures against terrorism and effectively repeal the Human Security Act of 2007.

Before Congress adjourned last week, lawmakers have approved on final reading House Bill 6875, which adopted provisions from Senate Bill No. 1083 passed by senators last February.

Duterte had certified the House bill as an urgent measure to beat the June 5 sine die adjournment of the legislative department.

With its enrollment to the President, Sotto said lawmakers can no longer move to retract the passage of the Anti-Terror Bill.

“They should not want to do that. A bill passed by both Houses of Congress already enrolled and yet some congressmen would like to hold it? It has never been done. They would not want me to do that to any of their bills, do they?” he said in a separate text message forwarded to Senate reporters.

“It’s water under the bridge. The bill is on the way to the President,” he reiterated.

The bill has been criticized for fear that it will pave the way for human rights abuses.

Among others, it proposes a 14-day warrantless detention for individuals suspected of engaging in terrorist acts.

It may be extended to a maximum period of 10 days if it is established that: further detention of the person/s is necessary to preserve evidence or complete the investigation; further detention is necessary to prevent the commission of another terrorism; and if the investigation is being conducted properly and without delay.

Under the current laws, those arrested without arrest warrants can only be held for up to 36 hours and should be released if no charges are filed in court.

The bill states that law enforcement officers and military personnel who conducted the warrantless arrest should inform the nearest court, as well as the Anti-Terrorism Council and the Commission on Human Rights, about it.

Failure to do so will be penalized with imprisonment of up to 10 years.

Under the bill, terrorism is committed by a person who:

(a) Engages in acts intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to any person, or endangers a person’s life;

(b) Engage in acts intended to cause extensive damage or destruction to a government or public facility, public place, or private property;

(c) Engages in acts intended to cause extensive interference with, damage or destruction to critical infrastructure;

(d) Develops, manufactures, possesses, acquires, transports, supplies or uses weapons, explosives or of biological, nuclear, radiological or chemical weapons; and

(e) Release of dangerous substances, or causing fire, floods, or explosions.

The bill also provides penalties for threats, conspiracy, proposal, and inciting to commit terrorism; the recruitment and participation in a terrorist organization, as well as those who provide material support to terrorists.

The bill also provides that “terrorism…shall not include advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action, and other simdar exercises of civil and political rights, which are not intended to cause death or serious physical harm to a person, to endanger a person’s life, or to create a serious risk to public safety.”

It further described terrorist activities as acts that “intimidate the general public or a segment thereof, create an atmosphere or spread a message of fear, to provoke or influence by intimidation the government or any of its international organization, or seriously destabilize or destroy the fundamental political, economic, or social structures of the country, or create a public emergency or seriously undermine public safety.”

Progressive groups and human rights advocates, as well as some congressmen and the CHR, flagged the bill’s provisions as being “broad” and “vague,” saying it is prone to abuse.

But proponents of the bill, including Sotto, have repeatedly assured that the measure contains enough safeguards to prevent abuse by law enforcers.