Lacson urges public not to believe disinformation drive, says Anti-Terror bill adheres to PH Constitution

Robie de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson has urged the public not to believe the “massive disinformation campaign” being waged by critics of the Anti-Terrorism Bill as he stressed that the measure aims to secure and protect the public from indiscriminate terrorist acts.

“Terrorism knows no timing nor borders. Some of our country’s policy-makers, especially our people, should know better than just criticizing and believing the massive disinformation campaign against a measure that can secure and protect us as well as our families and loved ones from terrorist acts perpetrated in a manner so sudden, least expected and indiscriminate – as in anytime, probably even today, tomorrow or next week,” Lacson said in a statement Thursday.

Lacson, the main champion of Senate Bill 1083 or the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, said the measure adheres to the Philippine Constitution and he has been mindful of the Bill of Rights when he held public hearings and argued for the bill on the Senate floor.

“When I conducted the public hearings and sponsored the bill on the Senate floor last year up to February when it was approved on third and final reading, I was always mindful of the Bill of Rights enshrined in the 1987 Constitution,” he said.

Lacson, who chairs the Senate committee on national defense, said he incorporated in the bill most of the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism laws of other strong democracies like Australia and the United States, “further guided by the standards set by the United Nations.”

“With the help of many of my colleagues who interpellated and proposed their individual amendments, including all the members of the minority bloc, I was more than accommodating to accept their amendments as long as we would not end up with another dead-letter law such as the Human Security Act of 2007, which has so far resulted in just one conviction after more than a decade of its implementation and just one proscribed terrorist organization such as the Abu Sayyaf Group,” he said.

Among the bill’s provisions that critics are opposing to is the 14-day reglementary period of detention without judicial warrant, saying this may be abused by the authorities.

But Lacson pointed out that the measure adopted the “shortest time” of 14 days compared to other countries in region like Thailand with up to 30-day reglementary period of detention; Malaysia with up to two years; Singapore at 720 days extendible to an indefinite period of detention without formal charges; and Indonesia, up to 120 additional days.

The senator also assured that safeguards have been put in place to ensure the rights of those detained.

Senate Bill 1083 seeks to repeal the existing Human Security Act of 2007 and to provide a “strong legal backbone to support the country’s criminal justice response to terrorism.”

The measure also seeks to provide law enforcers the much-needed tools to protect the people from terrorism threat and, at the same time, safeguard the rights of those accused of the crime.

The measure includes a new section on foreign terrorist fighters to cover Filipino nationals who commit terrorist offenses abroad.

It also introduces provisions penalizing those who will propose, incite, conspire, participate in the planning, training, preparation and facilitation of a terrorist act; as well as those who will provide material support to terrorists, and recruit members in a terrorist organization.

Under the bill, the penalty of 12 years of imprisonment will be meted by any person who:

  • Threaten to commit terrorism
  • Propose any terroristic acts or incite others to commit terrorism
  • Shall voluntarily and knowingly join any organization, association or group of persons knowing that such is a terrorist organization
  • Found liable as accessory in the commission of terrorism

The bill also removed the provision on payment of P500,000 damages per day of detention of any person acquitted of terrorism charges. But the number of days a suspected person can be detained without a warrant of arrest is 14 calendar days, extendible by 10 days.

A new provision, designating certain Regional Trial Courts (RTCs) as Anti-Terror Courts, was also introduced to ensure the speedy disposition of cases.

The amendments also provide for the police or the military to conduct a 60-day surveillance on suspected terrorists, which may be lengthened to another non-extendable period of 30 days, provided that they secure a judicial authorization from the Court of Appeals (CA).

Any law enforcement or military personnel found to have violated the rights of the accused persons shall be penalized with imprisonment of 10 years.

The measure also mandates the Commission on Human Rights to give the highest priority to the investigation and prosecution of violations of civil and political rights of persons, and shall have the concurrent jurisdiction to prosecute public officials, law enforcers and other persons who may have violated the civil and political rights of suspects and detained persons.

The bill has been approved by the Senate in February, and adopted by the House of Representatives.

It is now up for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature, despite criticisms and fears of more human rights abuses once it is enacted into law.

“To the critics, I dare say: I hope the day will not come when you or any of your loved ones will be at the receiving end of a terrorist attack, so much so that it will be too late for you to regret convincing the Filipino people to junk this landmark legislation,” Lacson said.

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