By Genalyn Kabiling
The country may soon have a stronger anti-terrorism law with President Duterte inclined to sign the controversial measure into law.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the President is taking a “final look” at the anti-terrorism bill and will likely sign the security measure.
“He (Duterte) spoke and rhetorically, he said he was waiting for Senator (Panfilo) Lacson to finish his commas and his periods, but that was rhetorical because, of course, the enrolled bill is now on his desk. Let’s just say that he is taking a final look at it and I think he is inclined to sign it,” Roque said over CNN Philippines on Tuesday.
Asked if the President had any inhibitions about the controversial measure, Roque said: “There was no mention other than his statement: ‘I’m waiting for Senator Lacson to finish with his commas and his periods’ which seems to indicate that if it is ready, then he will sign it,” Roque said.
He said the Palace is waiting for the final review on the anti-terrorism bill by the Office of the Executive Secretary. The inputs of the Department of Justice will likewise be taken into consideration.
“I guess that we are waiting for the final review by the Executive Secretary and if it’s possible, if the DOJ will also have its inputs because (Chief Presidential Legal Counsel) Secretary (Salvador) Panelo has already submitted his,” he added.
In a Palace press briefing, Roque clarified that the anti-terror bill has not yet reached the President’s desk. He said the Executive Secretary’s office is still studying the anti-terror bill.
“Hindi pa niya siguro nakikita o hindi pa po nata-transmit sa kanyang lamesa for signature ng Office of the Executive Secretary ang anti-terror law (He has not seen the measure or the anti-terror bill was not yet transmitted yet to his desk for signature by the Office of the Executive Secretary),” he said.
Panelo had earlier recommended to the President to sign the anti-terrorism bill, saying it will serve as a “powerful weapon” to contain terror threats without violating the rights of the accused.
He also said the proposed anti-terror law will be used solely against terrorists and not on government critics.
“This legislation is intended solely against terrorists (and definitely not against citizens who peacefully dissent against — and criticize — the government’s policies),” Panelo said. “We therefore ask them to study its provisions carefully and discuss the same with legal experts so they can understand fully the spirit of the bill,” he added.
Congress recently submitted to the President’s office an enrolled copy of the bill that seeks to strengthen the country’s anti-terrorism policy. The administration-backed bill includes controversial provisions on 14-day detention of suspected terrorists that can be extended for another 10 days as well as a longer period of surveillance of suspects from 30 days to 60 days.
The Palace had earlier said the President will consider the country’s best interest before deciding on whether to sign or veto the anti-terrorism bill passed by Congress. Roque assured the public that safeguards have been introduced in the anti-terror bill to prevent abuses and rights violation.
President Duterte certified as urgent House Bill No. 6875 to facilitate its swift passage in Congress. In his letter to Congress leaders, Duterte said the measure seeks “to address the urgent need to strengthen the law on anti-terrorism in order to adequately and effectively contain the menace of terrorist acts for the preservation of national security and the promotion of general welfare.”
Many lawmakers, rights advocates, and other concerned groups have protested the imminent approval of the anti-terrorism bill over concerns it will be prone to abuse and will curtail civil liberties.