By Chito A. Chavez
The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Sunday asserted that the Anti-Terrorism Bill (ATM) has safeguards against erring authorities who may commit abusive acts against the public.
DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya stressed this point as the proposed ATB drew mixed public reactions from opposing sectors.
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) maintained that the ATB when approved is dangerous as suspects could be held up to 24 days without charge which is a violation of the three-day limit as stated in the Constitution.
The group added “the vague wording of the bill gives almost absolute power to designate even wrongly, mistakenly or maliciously groups as terrorists’’.
Former party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares insisted the ATB bill is not meant for the terrorist groups but against the people who oppose certain government policies.
But another group Liga Independencia Pilipinas (LIPI) said otherwise and emphasized that the ATB will free the country from the claws of terrorism.
LIPI secretary-general Jose Antonio Goitia said the Filipino people deserve freedom against the tyranny, oppression, violence, killings of innocents, and the long-standing armed insurgency brought by communist groups, Islamic extremists and other rebel organizations in the country.
Malaya pointed out that the ATB “does not and will not diminish the disciplinary mechanisms against erring police officers’’ citing the existence of the Human Security Act (HSA).
He maintained that police officers will have second thoughts of violating people’s rights as the country has a functioning National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM), Internal Affairs Service (IAS), People’s Law Enforcement Board (PLEB) and “even the CSC (Civil Service Commission), Office of the Ombudsman and the regular courts that keep an eye on our police’’.
Stressing one of its salient points, Malaya asserted that the ATB even gives the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) prosecutorial powers to ensure protection against all forms of abuses.
He added that the ATB also has laid down penalties for all public officials and expressly penalizes the introduction of fabricated pieces of evidence by law enforcers.