Fear of abuse not valid reason to junk the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act — Rep. Torres-Gomez

Published June 24, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Charissa Luci-Atienza

Leyte 4th district Rep.  Lucy Torres-Gomez said on Wednesday, June 24, that the fear of those opposing the proposed “Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020″ that it can be abused once it becomes a law “is not unfounded,” but it “is not a valid reason” to outrightly junk the bill.

 (Photo from Lucy Torres-Gomez FB page/ MANILA BULLETIN)
(Photo from Lucy Torres-Gomez FB page/ MANILA BULLETIN)

The House leader rushed anew in defense of the controversial measure, reminding those who oppose it that”terrorism is the highest crime against humanity.”

“We have seen how laws have been abused in the years not just under the reign of President Duterte but even under other presidents,” she said in a television interview.

“But fear of abuse is not a valid reason to reject a bill outright. It is not a valid reason to reject needed legislation like the anti-terrorism bill because theoretically speaking, all laws can be abused, even social welfare laws that are very benign and charitable can be abused,” she added.

Torres-Gomez assured the public that bill has “safeguards” to prevent any abuse from happening.

“Of course,  we cannot foresee details of the future but we must go back to the basic question of why laws are needed in the first place,  because if the default argument against it is just that it might be abused then no law will be passed.

We will be a lawless people, live in a lawless country,” she said.

President Duterte earlier said his legal team is reviewing the bill.

In a Facebook post more than a week ago,  Torres Gomez said the Human Security Act of 2007 “is not equipped to help us prevent a terrorist act from being undertaken.”

She said it has no provision intended for foreign terrorists.

“This law is not meant to arrest regular protestors fighting for causes they believe in. This law is meant to prevent fatal and disastrous terrorist events from happening,” she said.

She noted that since 2016, the bill has been languishing in Congress.

“This went through many hearings in the committee level, long before it reached plenary. Perhaps we can all agree that there is no better time than the present to protect our people from the threats of terrorism,” she added.

Albay 1st district Rep. Edcel Lagman  had maintained that the bill is “constitutionally infirm” and will violate human rights and fundamental freedoms, and thus, should not be given the benefit of the doubt.

“We should not wait for any abusive enforcement of the proposed “Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020” to happen after it becomes a law because the abuse is in the measure itself,” he said in a statement issued last Sunday.

He said the proposed new anti-terrorism law “is the abuser for containing provisions violative of civil liberties and fundamental freedoms.”

He said the proposed law should not be accorded the “benefit of the doubt,” explaining that the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms should not be left to contingency and uncertainty.

“The “benefit of the doubt” gives favor to ambivalent conduct despite its uncertainty,” Lagman said.

He said one of the repressive provisions of the bill is “it redefines the crime of terrorism in vague and all-encompassing terms so much so that it would ensnare into culpability innocent citizens and legitimate dissenters.”

The veteran lawmaker also noted that the measure also seeks the detention of a suspected terrorist to a maximum of 24 days without judicial warrant.

“This is in excess of the three-day maximum period prescribed and institutionalized by the Constitution even when the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is suspended,” he said.

Aside from authorizing repressive surveillance and intrusion to privacy, Lagman explained that the bill “penalizes ‘proposal,’ ‘threats,’ and ‘inciting’ to terrorism which would infringe on the right of free speech as its articulation is prevented because of the chilling and deterrent effects of the criminalization of said acts which are not even penalized in the “Human Security Act of 2007”.”

He also questioned the measure’s provision that authorizes the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC), which he called a “mere administrative agency,” to designate as terrorist a person or an organization without judicial process or intervention.

“The pretended safeguards in the proposed “Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020” are mere motherhood statements which are orphaned by repressive provisions in the measure itself, thus exposing their being token safeguards,” Lagman said.