Malacañang said Monday there was a need to enact the bill against terrorism as it would assure the public there was “no draconian provision” in the proposed law to combat terrorism in the country.
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Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the proposed amendments to Republic Act 9372, or the Human Security Act, were patterned after the anti-terror laws of other countries to effectively combat terror threats.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday asked lawmakers to speed up the passage of the bill seeking to amend the 13-year-old Human Security Act whose provisions were deemed toothless by the Palace and other policymakers.
“There is no draconian provision there. All provisions are based on the laws of other countries that are effective in dealing with terrorists,” Roque said in a televised briefing.
Roque made his statement even as Senator Panfilo Lacson said there were enough safeguards in the new anti-terrorism bill amid criticism from some sectors.
Lacson said the concerns being raised by human rights advocates had been adequately addressed during the committee on national defense and security public hearings, as well as the debates and interpellations in plenary.
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"As a responsible member of the community of nations, we are duty-bound to improve upon our laws toward ensuring we are able to implement United Nations Security Council Resolutions, meet international standards, and fulfill state obligations with the UN while putting in place safeguards against possible abuse," he said in a statement.
But the women’s group Gabriela said the new Anti-Terrorism Bill was another dagger that would legitimize the abuse of power.
“The bill spells total death to our democratic rights. Even prior to its approval, activists and people’s organizations were already being tagged as ‘terrorist fronts’ by law enforcers—even presenting such accusations in congressional hearings,” Gabriela said.
Roque said today’s anti-terrorism law was actually one of the most lenient compared to similar laws enforced in other countries.
But concerns have been raised that the proposed measure might be used to target individuals expressing dissent against the government.
In a statement, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers expressed apprehension that its passage would worsen the climate of impunity “that has made the Philippines a fertile ground for extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests and crackdowns against activists and progressive organizations and even ordinary citizens.”
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Under the Senate bill adopted by the House of Representatives, any person who will threaten to commit terrorism will be imprisoned for 12 years. The same jail term will be applied against those who will propose any terroristic act or incite others to commit terrorism.
In defending a stronger anti-terror law, Roque said the Philippines was “not a stranger” to terrorism, citing the 2017 attack in Marawi City and the atrocities committed by the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu.
“I know it is the time of COVID-19 but these bills were filed during the 17th Congress but weren’t passed into law during the 17th Congress,” he said.
Under the bill, life imprisonment without parole would be meted 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 provide material support to terrorists and recruit anyone to be a member of a terrorist organization.
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The number of days a suspected person could be detained without a warrant of arrest would be 14 calendar days, but it could be extended by 10 days.
The proposed measure also seeks the creation of an anti-terror court to ensure the speedy disposition of cases.
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