MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson has clarified the “misconceptions” of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) about the controversial proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Lacson said the measure aims to combat terrorism in a “swift, effective, and constitutional” manner.
In a letter-reply to IBP president Domingo Egon Cayosa, Lacson addressed the IBP’s concerns about the provisions of the bill, including the establishment of the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC).
“The Anti-Terrorism Bill speaks clear of our swift, effective, and constitutional policy against these acts of terror and against no one else but its perpetrators,” he said.
Lacson, who authored and sponsored the bill, also pointed out in his letter-reply that arrests cannot be made based on mere suspicion alone.
Lacson said the legislative intent was to allow warrantless arrests based on Rule 113, Section 5 of the Revised Rules of Court. The Senate deliberations of the bill never showed any intention to add another element to an arrest without warrant.
Hence, a warrantless arrest remains valid only in the following cases: (a) when the person to be arrested has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense; (b) when an offense has just been committed, and he has probable cause to believe based on personal knowledge of facts or circumstances that the person to be arrested has committed it; and (c) when the person to be arrested is an escaped prisoner.
He also noted in his letter-reply that “the authority in writing does not pertain to an order of arrest.”
“The ‘written authorization’ of the ATC is intended to be issued to duly designated deputies, i.e., law enforcement agents or military personnel specially tasked and trained to handle the custodial investigation involving violations of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 as proposed, considering the complexities and nature of terrorism,” he said.
Lacson, who chairs the Senate committee on national defense and security, added that Section 29 is premised on a valid arrest without warrant that complies with Section 5 of Rule 113, meaning the arrest is “immediate in nature.”
“With this, it is illogical and impractical that the ATC will issue an order of arrest to a law enforcement officer who is already authorized to conduct warrantless arrest under the Revised Rules of Court,” he said.
“Thus, I wish to overemphasize this to clarify all misconceptions on the alleged expansion of coercive power of ATC: ATC has no power to order an arrest.”
He also emphasized that the ATC has no authority to determine the period of detention in the case of warrantless arrest and decide on its extension.
“If the ATC has no authority to order the arrest, much more does it have the authority to determine the period of detention of the person arrested,” he said.
He likewise stressed that the proposed period of detention of up to 14 days and its extension by another 10 days is to be treated as a policy decision of Congress “after considering the unique nature and effects of the crime of terrorism as thoroughly explained during our public hearings and in plenary session.”
Still, he said, the determination of extending the suspect’s detention for another ten days “remains with the courts.”
He also maintained that the proposed 14-day period of detention of suspected terrorists is “reasonable and sufficient” especially in events similar to the Marawi Siege, the 9/11 suicide bombings, and the gruesome beheading of people by ISIS.
“We need not wait for similar events to occur before we realize that a three-day investigation is not enough,” he said.
The senator also said the bill does not authorize law enforcers to arrest, conduct surveillance or restrict travel, adding that the Anti-Money Laundering Council may issue a freeze order toward the property and funds of a designated terrorist.
Lacson also said that Section 45 of the bill is unequivocal in saying that “nowhere herein shall be interpreted to empower the ATC to exercise any judicial or quasi-judicial power or authority.”
“To properly interpret the nature of the power of the ATC, it would be erroneous, if not careless to rely on reading Section 29 alone. The rule on statutory construction says that the law must not be read in truancy parts, rather, its provisions must be read in relation to the whole law,” he said.
He stressed the power of the ATC to designate in Section 25 is not judicial in nature, but is an executive and administrative process, to impose targeted financial sanctions pursuant to the framework under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1371.
“Arrests, detention, and the limitation on travel are not the intended consequences of designation,” he noted.
“Let me reiterate that designation is a preventive measure intended to trigger the issuance of a freeze order to prevent designated terrorists from accessing funds that can be used to carry out a terrorist attack,” he added.
“I hope that this letter was able to shed light on the legislative intent with respect to some of the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Bill that are being subjected to wrongful interpretations and misconceptions,” Lacson said.
The senator sent the letter in response to the IBP’s warning against possible “constitutional infirmities” in the proposed Anti-Terrorism bill.