Duterte signs Anti-Terror Bill into law despite strong opposition; to be challenged at SC
Bhenjar Toor, Editor-in-Chief
President Rodrigo Duterte has signed the controversial anti-terror bill into law despite strong opposition from various sectors citing “the imprecise and poorly worded” provisions of the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 that President Duterte has prioritized in the middle of a raging pandemic.
The announcement was made by Presidential spokesman Harry Roque citing the need to strengthen the Human Security Act of 2007, which criminalizes the incitement of terrorism “by means of speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, banners or other representations.”
House of Representatives Asssitant Majority Leader Jericho Nograles of Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta Party List issued assurances prior that the measure does not define terrorism as activism under the law that both chambers have approved. However, this has not allayed fears that it can be abused given the many incidents involving the police during the lockdown, which includes warrantless arrests made on a teacher, Ronnel Mas, whose case was later on dismissed, the implementation of quarantine laws leading to the death of ex-soldier Winston Ragos, whom the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has alleged as having been murdered by policemen with supposed evidence as having been planted.
Other similar incidents have seen policemen getting involved with the latest resulting in the death of four army intelligence officers shot without even a gunfight.
However, Duterte’s top military and security officials have cited the continuing threat of terror groups in the country such as the Abu Sayyaf as the main reason why there is a need for this law.
Just the same, those who oppose the then bill which has just been signed into law and will take effect in 15 days after are ready to challenge its legality in the Supreme Court with no less than Retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio leading the way against what he says as a “very defective” measure with “many unconstitutional provisions.”
Senate Bill No. 1083, which seeks to repeal and replace the current Anti-Terrorism Law that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has deemed “no longer responsive to the evolving nature of the threats we face” allows suspects to be taken into police custody for up to 24 days without charge and empowers an anti-terrorism council to designate suspects or groups as suspected terrorists who could be subjected to arrests and surveillance even if the basis is mere suspicion; this and many other provisions are what lawyer groups, human rights advocates, and even some lawmakers have opposed the bill, which they feared could be used as a potential state weapon against dissent.
In an interview conducted by The Pasig Review last June 26, Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto said that while there may be many oppositions to the bill, the local government will comply and implement the act because he believes in the rule of law.
“Whether or not mapasa siya kung may amendments, Pasig will comply,” he explained, going further into saying that he is not just talking about this since all laws require us to be aware of our actions and its ramifications.
“Although more of sa police yan, pero still, we will always have to remain vigilant that laws are not abused.”
--- with reports from Weiss Eisenhower Carlos II and Anton Lean Medina