Holding protests vs anti-terror bill is basic right but health protocols must be followed – Lacson

Robie de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Thursday said that staging protest activities against the controversial Anti-Terrorism bill is a basic right of every Filipino guaranteed in the Philippine Constitution.

“The plan of those opposing the Anti-Terrorism Bill to hold protests on Independence Day – regardless of whether they have read and understood the bill – is their basic right, guaranteed under the Bill of Rights,” Lacson said in a statement.

“Such basic rights shall remain guaranteed even if and when the Anti-Terrorism Bill is signed into law by the President and becomes effective,” he added.

However, he reminded protesters to “be conscious and mindful” of the existing protocols in relation to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Several groups have earlier revealed plans of convening an online rally to express their sentiments against the Anti-Terrorism bill and other issues in time for the country’s commemoration of the Independence Day on June 12.

Joint Task Force Coronavirus Shield chief Police Lieutenant General Guillermo Eleazar urged those planning to hold mass protest actions to “think twice” as any form of mass gathering is prohibited under the quarantine protocols.

The Inter-Agency Task Force earlier said it will allow a gathering for the commemoration of the Independence Day in Rizal Park in Manila on Friday but it should only be limited to 10 participants.

Malacañang, meanwhile, called on people to hold their protests on social media to avoid breaching any health and quarantine protocols.

Rights advocates have earlier expressed fear over the passage of the bill which contains provisions that may be abused by authorities.

The bill’s authors have repeatedly said that the measure only seeks to protect the innocents and strengthen the country’s campaign against terrorism.

Lawmakers championing the bill also stressed that law-abiding citizens need not fear the measure, adding that enough safeguards have been put in place to ensure the rights of those detained.

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