IBP mum on House passage of anti-terror bill

THE Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) in Cebu City is withholding comment on the Anti-Terrorism Bill passed by the House of Representatives until it becomes law and, at that time, it may assist those who wish to question it before the Supreme Court.

Noting that the passing of a law is different from its implementation, Lawyer Regal Oliva, IBP-Cebu City Chapter president, said while this bill is approved on its third reading by Congress, the IBP-Cebu City Chapter chooses not to dip its fingers into any political affairs or affiliations on the passing of the Anti-Terrorism Bill.

"We will not delve into political games, much so in the passing of a bill, as it is a political exercise. You may ask for our personal opinions as lawyers, but as the official organization of lawyers, we choose to keep mum on the issue until the bill will take effect into law," Oliva said.

Oliva added although they acknowledge that some provisions of the Bill may have been considered by some lawyers as red flags, it does not behoove the fact that the IBP "must not thresh its energies to political endeavors."

Meanwhile, Democrito Barcenas, veteran Cebuano human rights lawyer, likened this bill to "a dagger pointed at the very heart of human liberty."

He said he is greatly alarmed by the "unusual speed and indecent haste" that the Anti-Terrorism Bill was passed in the House.

"There is no need to have a sudden passage of this bill because our primary concern now is the coronavirus problem," he said.

"Now, according to (Presidential) spokesman Harry Roque, (as) he tries to appease us by saying that we have the Constitution and the Bill of Rights...I cannot trust this statement because we have the Constitution giving us due process, but people, (even) without Search Warrant or Warrant of Arrest, are being killed sometimes inside their houses on suspicion that they are drug couriers or users...right now, the Constitution is being violated left and right," he added.

House Bill 6875 which will repeal the Human Security Act of 2007 was copied from Senate Bill 1038 which the Senate passed on third and final reading in February 2020.

If enacted into law, this will allow warrantless arrests of persons suspected of being terrorists.

They maybe detained for 14 days with an allowable 10-day extension or up to a total of 24 days without charges. Authorities may also conduct 60-day surveillance on suspected terrorists, with an allowable 30-day extension.

Aside from allowing warrantless arrests and detention of up to 24 days without charges, the bill removed the provision on payment of P500,000 damages per day of detention of any person acquitted of terrorism charges.

The Movement Against Tyranny (MAT)-Cebu, an alliance of the academic and legal community, Church people, professionals, democracy-defenders, independent individuals, mass organizations, and civil society organizations, in Cebu also called for Cebuano lawmakers to withdraw their support to the Bill.

"Making the Anti-Terrorism Bill urgent over the health and economic measures is a clear manifestation of weaponizing the law against legal dissent in times of crises brought by the demise of neoliberal capitalism worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic," it said in a statement./WBS