Lacson refutes allegations Anti-Terrorism Bill blatantly transgresses citizens’ rights

Published June 24, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Mario Casayuran

Senator Panfilo M. Lacson, author of the Anti-Terrorism Bill (ATB), refuted on Wednesday the claims of former Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio that the measure, among others, blatantly transgresses fundamental rights of a citizen.

Senator Panfilo Lacson (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)
Senator Panfilo Lacson
(Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Lacson’s rebuttal was made in a virtual gathering sponsored by the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP).

Human rights advocates, among others, have denounced the ATB as a means to violate a citizen’s right despite Lacson’s appeal that they read the bill first before criticizing it.

“When two great legal minds clash, not symmetrically nor tangentially, but squarely, as in head-on, what do laymen like me and probably some of you in this virtual gathering do?” Lacson asked.

The senator was referring to Carpio, MAP’s guest last week, on the one hand, and on the other – an equally eminent legal eagle, a former Justice secretary, and also his colleague in the Senate – Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, also a former Senate President.

Lacson, chairman of the Senate national defense and security committee, is not a lawyer. He is a former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief.

“The records of the Senate archives will tell us that the phrase ‘having been duly authorized in writing by the Anti-Terrorism Council…’ under Section 29, which is now being challenged as unconstitutional by Justice Carpio as well as IBP president Domingo Egon Cayosa, was actually Senator Franklin Drilon’s amendment in the Human Security Act of 2007, later accepted by another giant in the legal profession, the sponsor of the Human Security Act of 2007, former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, and is merely being retained in the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020,” Lacson said during the virtual MAP gathering.

“The legislative intent of the bill is clearly to premise Section 29 on a valid warrantless arrest, as also lawfully allowed in other crimes that are not related to terrorism. The provision is compliant with Rule 113, Section 5 of the Revised Rules of Court. Under the proposed Anti-Terrorism Law, a warrantless arrest is allowed under the same circumstances as in any other crime, by virtue of: (a) in flagrante delicto arrest; and (b) a hot pursuit arrest. It was never the intention of Congress to amend the rules on warrantless arrest or what we also refer to as a citizen’s arrest,” he stressed.

“The same phrase contained in Section 18, (titled “Period of Detention in the Event of an Actual or Imminent Terrorist Attack”) of the Human Security Act of 2007 and which has the same language as Section 29 of the Anti-Terrorism Bill, was voted favorably by a number of distinguished legal experts and luminaries, among others, both in the Senate and the House of Representatives,” he said.

“Without taking anything away from the honorable Justice Carpio, who I respect and admire, I would prefer to go along with my former and present colleagues in the Congress of the Republic of the Philippines, not only because of the power of overwhelming numbers, but more so, I am absolutely certain these legislators as well as their respective legislative staffs and legal researchers had diligently studied, researched, and scrutinized a landmark measure like the Human Security Act of 2007 before casting their affirmative votes, as this is the usual and time-honored practice in legislative work. Nothing less could be said of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, as proposed,” he added.

Lacson emphasized that his own legislative staff – all six of them lawyers in their own right, and in further consultation with counter-terrorism experts both local and foreign, notably from Australia and the United States, unarguably countries with strong democracies – burned the proverbial midnight oils to help him ably defend this measure on the Senate floor for seven straight session days of intense interpellations and three days of back-and-forth period of amendments by many of my colleagues, including such distinguished members of the Bar – as eminently qualified as Justice Carpio and lawyer Cayosa – such as Senators Drilon, himself a Bar placer; Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, a Bar topnotcher; Francis Tolentino, Richard Gordon, to name some of them.

“Justice Carpio has acknowledged that Section 18, similarly worded as Section 29 of the Anti-Terror Bill, has NOT been ruled unconstitutional by the High Court. Sadly, he said it in another way, the reason of which he alone would know,” he said.

“For the life of me, I could not understand why the honorable Justice thinks this argument works for his cause when the Supreme Court is clear on the matter of “presumption of constitutionality.” To underscore, the Supreme Court, in Tano vs Socrates, GR No. 110249 dated August 21, 1997 ruled, and I quote: “It is of course settled that laws (including ordinances enacted by local government units) enjoy the presumption of constitutionality. To overthrow this presumption, there must be a clear and unequivocal breach of the Constitution, not merely a doubtful or argumentative contradiction. In short, the conflict with the Constitution must be shown beyond reasonable doubt. Where doubt exists, even if well-founded, there can be no finding of unconstitutionality. To doubt is to sustain.”

“It is difficult to understand why a former justice would not know such basic and significant jurisprudence,” Lacson added.

“Anyway, to allay any fears, Section 29 ensures safeguards to avoid abuses by requiring a written notification to be immediately given to the judge of the court nearest to the place of arrest, with copy furnished to the Anti-Terrorism Council. We have proposed that the same notification be also provided to the Commission on Human Rights – a requirement not present under the Human Security Act of 2007,” he stated.

“On its face, it may appear downright stupid and a virtual disaster to be locking horns with a recently retired justice of the Supreme Court, hailed by some of his colleagues in the bench as “the best Chief Justice they never had,” and the incumbent president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), Atty. Cayosa, especially on legal matters, even touching on some very delicate constitutional issues. Worse, it is not a three-cornered debate, but two against one who is not even a lawyer,” he added.

In the same talk during a webinar last June 17, Lacson said Carpio emphasized the inviolable fundamental rights that no less than the Constitution has clearly expressed: first is that only a judge can issue warrants of arrest; and second, that warrants of arrest must be issued only upon probable cause.

“Let me be clear at the outset: the Anti-Terrorism Bill does not allow encroachment by the executive (particularly the Anti-Terrorism Council) on the court’s exercise of judicial powers, such as the issuance of warrants of arrest; nor does it propose to amend Rule 113, Section 5 of the Revised Rules of Court by adding another circumstance in the conduct of a valid and lawful warrantless arrest,” he said.

“This is contrary to Justice Carpio and other critics’ oft-repeated claims that Section 29 – which I think is the most assailed provision of the proposed measure – allows the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC), a body composed of officials from the Executive Department, to give a written authority to police and military personnel to arrest without warrant any person on mere suspicion of being a terrorist. Nothing can be further from the truth. I will belabor these points later on,” he said.

Lacson said the course of the opposing views and opinions unfairly devalues the measure on many fronts, largely because of the various misconceptions, disinformation, and misinformation.

He debunked these false claims against Section 29 of the bill.

“Justice Carpio has stretched his qualms over the bill by citing my statement during a Senate deliberation. He said, and I quote: “In the exact words of the principal author of the law, even if hindi naman siya nag-commit ng crime, hindi pa nangyari, puwede na natin arestuhin.”

Unintentionally or not, he ignored the context of my response to the interpellation of Senator Gordon. The statement nitpicked by Justice Carpio was in reference to acts preparatory to the commission of terrorism.

As we deal with the crime of terrorism, we need to adopt proactive measures that will prevent even the planning phase of the crime. Thus, I explained that under the proposal, we included the proposition to penalize INCHOATE OFFENSES, or preparatory acts that are deemed criminal even without the actual harm being done, provided that the harm that would have occurred is one the law tries to prevent, such as terrorism. Preparatory acts, as a rule, are not punishable unless – I repeat, UNLESS – these acts are punishable in themselves as independent crimes. It is for this reason that the Revised Penal Code specifically provides that conspiracy and proposal to commit rebellion, treason, insurrection and coup d’etat are indeed, crimes,’’ he said.

“We added planning, training, preparing, and facilitating the commission of terrorism under Section 6 as INCHOATE OFFENSES punishable under the bill pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution No. 1373, which states that planning and preparation, among others, are established as serious criminal offenses in domestic laws, and that the punishment should duly reflect the seriousness of such terrorist acts. In these enumerated acts, an inchoate offense is being performed towards the accomplishment of the desired purpose that is – terrorism. Hence, these acts are criminal in nature. It does negate Justice Carpio’s assertion that under the bill, one can be arrested without doing any criminal act,” he explained.

“Let me ask you: When one lays out the plan when and where to detonate a bomb, trains youngsters how to use guns against our uniformed men as well as unarmed civilians and facilitates the conduct of coordinated attacks without being present in the actual ‘act’ of terrorism, and which has not occurred yet, and with a clear intent or purpose as enumerated under the definition of terrorism, are they not considered criminals? Do you honestly think people responsible for preparing the grand, vicious acts of terrorism do not deserve to be behind bars?” he asked.

Lacson stressed that if the ATC has no authority to order an arrest based on suspicion, it clearly has no authority to detain suspected terrorists and much more, fix the period of detention to 14 days, extendible to another 10 days.