Despite mounting public opposition to the anti-terror bill, President Rodrigo Duterte is inclined to sign it into law, a Palace official said Tuesday.
In an interview with CNN Philippines, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the President would likely sign the bill, once it has been reviewed by the Office of the Executive Secretary and the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Roque admitted, however, that the bill has not yet reached the President’s desk.
READ: Anti-terror bill veto feared to work vs. PH
“He has not seen the measure or the anti-terror bill,” Roque said. “I guess that we are waiting for the final review by the
executive secretary and if it’s possible if the DOJ will also have its inputs because (Chief Presidential Legal Counsel) Secretary (Salvador) Panelo has already submitted his.”
Duterte could either sign the bill into law or veto it. He could also simply let the measure lapse into law by not acting on it for 30 days.
While the measure is aimed at toughening the country’s anti-terrorism law, several human rights groups and lawmakers have expressed concern that it could be abused to crack down on dissent.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he would submit his comments on the bill by Wednesday.
“We finished our brainstorming session yesterday, examining and inter-relating with one another each and every section of the enrolled anti-terrorism bill,” Guevarra said, in a text message.
READ: Palace receives anti-terror bill, says Duterte to review measure
“We are drafting our comments today and will send our internal communication to the Office of the President tomorrow,” the DOJ chief added.
Guevarra said the DOJ cannot make public the results of its review, since its communication will be addressed directly to the Office of the President.
Earlier, Guevarra said theDOJ and the Anti-Terrorism Council would come up with the bill’s implementing rules and regulations that would ensure that people’s rights are safeguarded.
He said should the bill be enacted into law, the DOJ would try to define more clearly the parameters within which the law will be implemented and enforced, “to erase any latitude for misapplication or abuse.”
But the Concerned Lawyers for Civil Liberties (CLCL), a broad network of legal academics, litigation and human rights lawyers and civil libertarians asked Guevarra and the DOJ to consider the constitutional implications of the new terror bill and recommend the veto of the bill.
“What Malacañang attempts to do with the new terror bill is overkill—when there are enough laws against terrorism,” the CLCL said in a statement.
“The current Human Security Act is already draconian and is more than sufficient to ferret, arrest and charge the Abu Sayaff and other groups considered by government as terrorists,” the group said.
It allows for surveillance, proscription, opening of bank accounts, freezing of assets, warrantless arrest of suspects and other repressive mechanisms.
There is also Republic Act No. 10168, the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act, which further imposed more draconian measures to stop supposed terrorist financing, the group added.
“There is no need for the new terror law, as far as terrorists are concerned, but Malacañang needs this law against critics and the growing number of ordinary people who protest against the failure of government to deliver relief and aid during quarantine,” the CLCL said. “They can be easily designated as terrorists or arrested without warrant and detained without charges for more than two weeks to nip these protests [and] dissent.
READ: ’Terror bill’ critics terrorized
The group criticized provisions in the bill that would give political appointees of the President the function of a judge in issuing arrest warrants in violation of the Constitution, which states that only courts can issue warrants.
Also on Tuesday, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon challenged critics of the anti-terrorism bill to condemn the acts of the New People’s Army, the Abu Sayyaf Group and other homegrown terrorists.
“We as leaders of this country would be remiss in our duties if we failed to adopt the needed measures that would bring us at par with the international obligations aimed at combatting global terrorism in all its iterations and forms,” Esperon said.
He said instead of diminishing people’s rights, the bill strengthens them by protecting democratic institutions from violent extremists and fundamentalists while providing numerous safeguards that uphold civil liberties and protections.
READ: ‘Anti-terror bill to cut Reds’ funding’
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