Are we past the point of no return?
The controversial anti-terror bill, believed to be a draconian law that would trample on human rights, was sent to President Rodrigo Duterte today for his signature, Senate President Vicente Sotto announced this morning.
Sotto said he and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano have already signed the bill last night, despite widespread public opposition. Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said today in his virtual media briefing that the president has 30 days to sign the proposed law.
“E-mail already [been] received but I’m waiting for the actual receipt,” Sotto said. “Technically, it’s as good as received…They are now printing copies in the Palace.”
Duterte certified the bill, which would repeal the Human Security Act of 2007, as urgent. The president said it was necessary to “address the urgent need to strengthen the law on anti-terrorism in order to adequately and effectively contain the menace of terrorist acts for the preservation of national security and the promotion of general welfare.”
The Senate passed its version, Senate Bill No. 1083, in February, which was adopted in full by the House of Representatives. Their version of the proposed law, House Bill No. 6875, was approved in the third and final reading last week.
Once signed, it will imprison for life, without giving parole, those found guilty of proposing, inciting, conspiring, planning, training, preparing, and facilitating any terrorist act. Suspects can be detained for up to 24 days even without a warrant of arrest.
Several congressmen have withdrawn their support for the bill after the public voiced their opposition but Sotto and Senator Panfilo Lacson, a former top policeman, have insisted that there are enough safeguards in place to ensure that it is not abused by the authorities.
Non-profit Amnesty International has urged the Duterte administration to junk the bill because it “contains dangerous provisions” that would “undermine” the public’s rights.
“The bill is overly broad and can be used to stifle peaceful dissent or target civil society and other legitimate groups amid increasing attacks on human rights defenders and critics of the Duterte administration, as the country continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. It is essential that problematic provisions are removed from the legislation before it is finalized,” it said.