By Mario Casayuran
Senator Panfilo M. Lacson said today the plan of those opposing the Anti-Terrorism Bill (ATB) to hold protests on June 12, Independence Day, is their constitutional right.
Congress leaders earlier submitted to Malacanang the ATB. President Duterte can approve or veto it. The measure automatically becomes a law should he does not act on it after 30 days.
Lacson, chairman of the Senate national defense and security committee and principal author of the ATB, said those planning to hold protests should only be conscious and mindful of the existing protocols in relation to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
He explained that under the Bill of Rights in the Constitution, “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”
‘’Thus, the plan of those opposing the Anti-Terrorism Bill to hold protests on Independence Day – regardless of whether they have read and understood the bill – is their basic right, guaranteed under the Bill of Rights,’’ he said.
‘’Such basic rights shall remain guaranteed even if and when the Anti-Terrorism Bill is signed into law by the President and becomes effective,’’ he added.
Lacson stressed that enactment into law of the ATB is meant to protect Filipinos from terrorism.
The former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief pointed out that there is a provision in the ATB stating that terrorism as defined shall not include advocacy, protest and dissent.
‘’This is so provided in the Bill of Rights in the 1987 Constitution particularly Section 4,’’ he added.
‘’But we are trying to avoid a situation where a peaceful rally is infiltrated by terrorists and it will cause harm or death not only to the institution or the critical infrastructure we mentioned here, but to the same peaceful rallyists. If it is established the intent and purpose by its nature and context ay talagang terrorist act ang gagawin (It is a terrorist act that they will do), it could fall under this provision,’’ he added.