Anti-Terrorism Bill now a law

Published July 3, 2020, 6:57 PM

by Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Duterte: If I do not do my duty now, we might just bargain away our democratic values

President Duterte signed the Anti-Terrorism Bill into law Friday amid the country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque confirmed. 

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (SIMEON CELI JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO)

“As we have said, the President, together with his legal team, took time to study this piece of legislation weighing the concerns of different stakeholders,” he said. 

In his statement, Roque described terrorism as a “crime against humanity” that requires a comprehensive approach to contain. 

“The signing of the aforesaid law demonstrates our serious commitment to stamp out terrorism, which has long plagued the country and has caused unimaginable grief and horror to many of our people,” he said. 

“Together, let us defeat terrorism and make our communities safe and secure under the rule of law,” he added. 

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea alsoconfirmed that President Duterte had already signed the measure, a day it was announced that the Anti Terrorism Bill was up for final review by his office. 

“Signed bill into law earlier,” Medialdea’s text message to Malacañang reporters read. Interior Secretary Eduardo Año also said the bill was “signed in toto.” 

The signing of the bill into law came after the misencounter between police officers and army soldiers that resulted in not just the death of four soldiers but also in the supposed escape of two suicide bombers in Jolo. 

President Duterte had certified the controversial measure as urgent despite the opposition of the public over supposedly unconstitutional provisions that are also prone to abuse. 

Some of the issues raised by the public were the 14-day pre-trial detention that can be extended for another 10 days and the Anti-Terror Council being allowed to order an arrest of a suspected terrorist. 

Malacañang, however, said President Duterte had no problem with the proposed pre-trial detention period but said Duterte was inclined to sign the bill barring constitutional infirmities. 

President Duterte, in a meeting with members of the government’s COVID19 task force, said terrorism and the communists remain the number one threat to the country, pointing out that they continue to cause trouble despite the threat of the pandemic. 

According to Malacañang, this was also the same reason Duterte certified the measure as urgent. 

“Terrorism is number one on our list. Actually, the number one threat to the country, hindi Abu Sayyaf, hindi mga terorista of no value. Itong highvalue targets itong mga komunista (is not the Abu Sayyaf Group nor the terrorists of no value. The high-value targets are the communists),” the President said two weeks ago. 

“If I do not do my duty now as President, we might just bargain away, place in jeopardy, the democratic values that the Filipinos have enjoyed for the longest time,” he added. 

Malacañang had earlier said that 784 local chief executives have expressed support to the measure. 

Roque had also said the public was over-interpreting the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Bill and assured them that their right to free speech and hold strikes are still guaranteed under the 1987 Constitution. 

“Yes, they are [over-interpreting]! Because the right to strike, again, is protected by the Constitution,” he said in an interview with ANC last month. 

“When we talk about possibilities, it’s unlimited. But that’s precisely why we have the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights limits the extent that Congress can provide for conduct and if it infringes on the minimum standards set by the Bill of the Rights it will certainly be declared unconstitutional by the courts,” he added.