By Chito Chavez
Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año on Thursday defended President Duterte’s recent decision to certify as urgent the enactment of the Anti-Terrorism Bill (ATB) as urgent in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The House of Representatives adopted the Senate version, thereby hastening its approval. The enrolled bill is now awaiting the President’s action. He may approve, veto, or simply allow it to lapse into law.
In a news briefing, Año explained that the President was right in stressing that terrorism remains a threat, with or without the COVID-19 pandemic.
Año pointed to the military’s encounter with terrorist groups in many parts of the country.
In other countries, Año said that 10 terrorist attacks were recorded since the start of the pandemic.
Citing the necessity of its approval, Año appealed to the public to read the proposal in its entirety before passing judgment.
Since the ATB proposal has been reviewed and discussed “three years in the making’’, Año maintained that it had been subjected to scrutiny as evidenced by the number of public hearings participated in by both its supporters and oppositors.
DILG Undersecretary and spokesperson Jonathan Malaya also asserted that the ATB has safeguards against erring authorities who may commit abusive acts against the public.
He insisted 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).
Malaya maintained that the police officers will have second thoughts about 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’’.
Pointing to 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.