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Priorities

"It's a done deal, we are told."

At the very least, we cannot accuse this administration of misplacing its priorities. It knows exactly what it wants.

Given the persistent threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, and just when the National Capital Region and neighboring places were grappling with the dilemma of resuming economic life while still facing the dangers of the virus, Malacanang on Monday certified the Anti-Terrorism bill, now pending at the House of Representatives, as urgent.

A letter from the President to House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano emphasized the necessity of the immediate enactment of House Bill 6875, or An Act Defining, Preventing and Penalizing Terrorist Acts, Repealing for the Purpose Republic Act No. 9372 Otherwise Known as the “Human Security Act of 2007, and Appropriating Funds Therefor.

According to the letter, we should address the urgent need to strengthen the law on anti-terrorism in order to adequately and effectively contain the menace of terrorist acts for the preservation of national security and the promotion of the general welfare.

The Senate had already acted upon this bill before the lockdown; on Tuesday, members of the House of Representatives showed up for work, a few days before the go on recess, to tackle the bill.

Outside the halls of Congress, many asked whether this might be another tool to be used by the administration to silence its critics and clamp down on dissenters. Legal experts say the amendments to the original law include a too-broad definition of terrorism that may be used against those who dare speak against the government. It’s a heated, emotional issue that reminds us of times we saw people’s rights sacrificed in the name of peace and order, and when we experienced the impunity and power-tripping of those tasked to implement the law.

Who would, in theory, oppose a bill that purports to protect the country against terrorists? In practice, of course, there are many other things to consider. What safeguards could be put in place to ensure no abuse is committed would have been good topic for deliberation, at some time in the future.

But no – it’s practically a done deal, we are told. The Palace has given the cue and Congress, ideally an independent branch, is dancing to the tune. How unfortunate, then, that this should be a time to ram such measures down our throats when many other things demand government attention during a global pandemic. There is mass testing, integrity of the data we are being fed, and plans for a shift to the so-called new normal including ensuring our children continue to learn while being kept safe at home.

Indeed you can glean people’s values by the company they keep, by the way they spend their time, and by the things they consistently choose to do even under the most challenging of times. Our leaders’ priorities give us a great peek into what they hold dear.

Topics: Editorial , Priorities , Anti-Terrorism bill , House of Representatives , House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano , House Bill 6875 , Act Defining , Preventing and Penalizing Terrorist Acts
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