Tell it to SunStar: Reply to Amante's Sunday Essay

Rep. Emmarie "Lollypop" Ouano-Dizon, Cebu, 6th District

DEAR Isolde D. Amante,

Thank you for inviting me to discuss my vote on the proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill. I explained briefly to the media the reasons for my support, and it was published in the June 5 issue of a local daily. I welcome this opportunity to address you as a constituent of the district that I represent.

Like you and others who communicated to me in private, I too initially had reservations on the “Detention Without Judicial Warrant” provision under Section 29. Many have misinterpreted this as a blanket authority to arrest and detain any Juan and Pedro without need of a judicial warrant.

As a non-lawyer, I was made to understand that our existing legal setting already allows arrests without prior judicial warrant. This is for few exceptional circumstances under the concept of warrantless arrest, or citizen’s arrest. So even without an authority from the Anti-Terrorism Council, a terror suspect may be subjected to a warrantless arrest (again, if falling under the exceptions).

What the provision intends, to my mind, is for the continued detention of those taken in custody as terror suspects, beyond the existing 12-18-36 hours required under existing law, to 14 days (with 10 days extension) as long as there is prior authority from the ATC. Without the written authority, the detention and custodial investigation could not be more than 36 hours from a warrantless arrest, and, more so, it could only apply to acts of terrorism defined in the law (and, not to any other crime).

As an added protection, the said provision requires that the law enforcement agent notify in writing the judge of the court nearest the place of arrest, and furnish the ATC and the Commission on Human Rights of such notice. Read in its entirety, there are other provisions to ensure that those who will abuse would be penalized.

The bill was certified as “urgent” by the President, paving the way for its quick passage under the House Rules. This may eventually be challenged in Court if the President signs it into a law.

We respect all opinions from all sectors. I have faith in our judicial system. The Supreme Court will have the final say on the issues raised.

There may also be a possibility that Congress may opt, upon public demand, to take a second look of the challenged provisions to allow more enlightened debates, for possible amendments. Perhaps, that is the best thing that can happen. I assure you that I would be listening.

This decision may not be popular, but in making my stand I only had the public’s best interest in mind. I appreciate your letter because it reminds me once more of the immense responsibility that is bestowed to us members of the House of Representatives.

Terrorism knows no rules. It’s a crime against humanity. The State should not avoid its responsibility to craft new laws to better equip our law enforcement agencies because of fear of possible abuses. There are laws to make people and public servants accountable.

I assure you that as representative of the 6th district, I am one with the people in guarding with vigilance the protection of our liberties.

READ: Sunday Essay: An open letter to Congresswoman Lolypop