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Rody certifies anti-terrorism bill as urgent

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday certified as urgent a bill that proposes amendments to the country's existing anti-terrorism law, despite criticism from netizens and activist groups.

READ: Anti-Terrorism bill ‘legitimizes’ abuse of power—Gabriela

In a letter to House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Duterte certified House Bill No. 6875, which amends the Human Security Act of 2007, as urgent.

The President said the call for a speedy passage aims to "address the urgent need to strengthen the law on anti-terrorism in order to inadequately and effectively contain the menace of terrorist acts for the preservation of national security and the promotion of general welfare."

READ: New anti-terror measure needed, but left slams it

Certifying the bill as urgent would allow the House to expedite its passage. The Senate in February passed a similar version of the bill.

Earlier Monday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Congress should finish tackling proposed amendments to the country's existing anti-terrorism law before it goes on recess this week.

"It is certified urgent bill so it could be passed before Congress goes on recess  before June 5," he said in a virtual press briefing.

Over the weekend, netizens criticized the proposed legislation on concerns that it might violate basic rights. The hashtag #JunkTerrorBill trended in the Philippines on Friday, ABS-CBN News reported.

The country's existing anti-terrorism law had been criticized for being useless because of provisions penalizing law enforcers with the payment of P500,000 in damages per day of detention of any person acquitted of terrorism charges.

The proposed measure removes the said provision but sets the number of days a suspect can be detained without a warrant of arrest to 14 days, which can be extended by another 10 days.

Lorenzana, however, claimed that the criticism against the bill has no basis, saying the measure provides safety nets for human rights.

“I read the measure and their opposition to the bill has no basis. There is enough provision for human rights and there are also enough penalties for law enforcement agencies who will abuse their power. Our countrymen have nothing to worry about,” he said.

To allay concerns on possible abuse of power, the bill states that the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) should be notified in case of detention of a suspected terrorist.

The CHR, in turn, is tasked to give the highest priority to the investigation and prosecution of violations of civil and political rights of individuals.

It will also 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. Willie Casas

A new provision, designating certain Regional Trial Courts as Anti-Terror Courts, was also introduced to ensure the speedy disposition of cases. The use of videoconferencing for the accused and witnesses to remotely appear and testify will be allowed under the measure.

If the bill becomes law, any person who shall be accused of threatening to commit terrorism shall suffer the penalty of 12 years in prison.

READ: ‘Anti-terror bill won’t violate human rights’

The same prison term will be imposed on those who will propose any terror acts or incite others to commit terrorism, those who will join any terrorist organization, and those found liable as an accessory in the commission of terrorism.

Its counterpart measure in the Senate (Senate Bill 1083) has provisions imposing life imprisonment without parole on those who will propose, incite, conspire, and participate in the planning, training, preparation and facilitation of a terrorist act, as well as those who will support terrorists or recruit people to terror groups.

The amendments also provide for the police or the military to conduct 60-day surveillance on suspected terrorists, which may be extended to 30 more days, provided that they secure judicial authorization from the Court of Appeals.

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

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, a former military chief, also backed the speedy passage of the bill, saying it is for the safety of Filipinos.

"This is for the safety of everyone. This bill was well thought out and we assure you that there will be no abuses so we hope that the public would support this bill,” Ano said.

If the bill becomes law, any person who shall be accused of threatening to commit terrorism shall suffer the penalty of 12 years in prison.

The same prison term will be imposed on those who will propose any terroristic acts or incite others to commit terrorism.

The bill broadly defined terrorism as “causing death or serious bodily injuries to any persons, or endangers a person’s life” that could brand a common criminal as a terrorist.

This is also prone to abuse, particularly against peaceful rallies, at the moment police force instigate violent dispersals, the fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and Anakpawis Party-list said in separate statements.

They said it also provisioned warrantless arrest and detention for at most 24 days; and surveillance for as long as 90 days, according to former Anakpawis Party-list representative Ariel “Ka Ayik” Casilao.

He branded it as a tool to transform the people as a “flock of sheep” or essentially silent and compliant to whatever the government carries out on its policies and programs.

“At present, with the bill yet to be approved as a law, activists, people’s organizations and critics are already being branded by the government as terrorists or worse being killed, what more if they are legally enabled by this. Does this mean that if we oppose reclamation projects in defense of fisherfolk communities, we would be prosecuted using this law?” Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya national chairperson, said in a statement.

“If we demand immediate production subsidy of P15,000 to fisherfolk and farmers, would that make us terrorists? Or the real type that is alive in the country is state terrorism?” he said.

Hicap noted that as many activists fell victim to extra-judicial killings ― with the latest, Ka Karletz Badion, the leader of Kadamay urban poor group ― it is clear that EJK intends to sow terror among activists and the people, thus, it is the state who has the motive to become a terrorist,” he elaborated.

“This is a cunning work-around against the Bill of Rights in the constitution, on the rights to liberty and due process, to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures, to privacy, against self-incrimination, freedom of speech and expression, press, peaceful assembly, and redress of grievances. It is like we are reviving archaic authoritarian and totalitarian rule, all demolishing our democratic rights,” Casilao said.

READ: Biazon: Strengthen anti-terrorism law

Topics: Rodrigo Duterte , anti-terrorism law , Alan Peter Cayetano , Human Security Act of 2007
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