MANILA, Philippines — The controversial Anti-Terror Bill now only has President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature as its final hurdle into becoming law, after the House of Representatives voted in support of the measure’s passage.
With an overwhelming 173 affirmative votes, the House of Representatives (HOR) approved on third and final reading the controversial House Bill No. 6875 or the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 which seeks to amend the Human Security Act of 2007.
During the deliberation on Wednesday (June 4), only 31 lawmakers opposed the bill while 29 abstained.
The Lower House adopted and eventually approved the Senate version.
This will do away with the bicameral conference committee deliberations and will have the bill directly transmitted to the Office of the President for signature.
President Duterte on Monday (June 1) certified the bill as urgent.
Meanwhile, several lawmakers expressed concern over the possible swift approval of the bill.
According to House Minority Floor Leader Benny Abante, the bill seemed to have been passed in haste and was not even given time for amendments.
Several provisions, Abante said, seemed alarming specifically Section 9 of the bill or the ‘Inciting to Commit Terrorism’ provision which states that:
“Any person who, without taking any direct part in the commission of terrorism, shall incite others to the execution of any of the acts specified in Section 4 hereof by means of speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, banners or other representations tending to the same end, shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment of twelve (12) years.”
“Ibig sabihin nito, lahat ng kritiko ng gobyerno at mga may hinaing laban sa gobyerno ay puede ng ipa-aresto [This means that anyone who is critical of and with grievances against the government can be arrested],” Abante argued.
“Under this bill, anyone suspected of being a terrorist can be detained without a warrant for up to 24 days. Kahit sino sa atin ay maaaring ipa-aresto at makulong ng 24 days ng walang anumang kasong isinasampa sa hukuman [Anyone of us can be arrested and detained for 24 days without being charged],” he warned.
Congressman Ace Barbers, meanwhile, admitted that he has hesitations on the bill although he voted yes to it.
The bill, he said, will only be good if it targets the real terrorists such as Abu Sayyaf Group, Maute group and other armed groups, but there is also a big possibility of abuse.
Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque said the Palace trusts the constitutionality of the proposed measure.
He also argued that it is only the Supreme Court (SC) who can determine if the law has provisions that will violate the people’s human rights.
“Naniniwala po ako na dahil alam naman ng Kongreso lalo na ng Senado ang kaniyang ginagawa [I believe that Congress, especially the Senate, is aware of what it is doing], not only presumed constitutional but (the bill) will also pass the test of constitutionality,” he said.
“Lahat po ng provision diyan ay ibinase rin natin sa mga batas na mga iba’t ibang bansa na mas epektibo po ang kanilang pagtrato dito sa mga terorista,[The provisions of the bill are based on similar existing laws being implemented in other countries which are proven effective when it comes to dealing with terrorists],” he added.
The Palace Spokesperson also defended the President for certifying the bill as urgent despite the ongoing crisis on coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
He said there is nothing extraordinary about the timing of the bill’s passage as it has long been pending since the 17th Congress.
“Nangyari po ang Marawi (siege pero) dalawa lang po ang na-convict sa Human Security Act. Patunay na kailangang lagyan ng ngipin ang anti-terrorism legislation natin [After Marawi siege, only two terrorists were convicted under the Human Security Act. That means we really have to strengthen our anti-terrorism legislation],” Roque said. —MNP (with inputs from Vincent Arboleda)