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Approval of tougher anti-terrorism law by November to pave way for lifting of martial law —Sotto

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said passing a stronger anti-terrorism law by November this year may pave the way for the lifting of martial law in Mindanao.

Sotto made the pitch in reaction to the appeal of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte to exempt Davao City from martial law. The Armed Forces of the Philippines has expressed support for the selective coverage of martial law saying peace and order situation in some areas has already improved.

“We have a better course of action, we will pass ASAP (as soon as possible) by first week of November the Anti-Terrorism Act and DND Secretary (Delfin Lorenzana) says they will recommend lifting of martial law in the entire Mindanao if signed by PRRD (President Rodrigo Duterte),” Sotto told reporters through Viber when sought for comment.

“I'm with Ping (Lacson) and Frank (Drilon) and we discussed it already. Majority will support,” he added.

Sotto, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senator Panfilo Lacson are currently in Serbia attending the Inter-Parliamentary Union assembly.  Also with them are eight of their colleagues, Senate Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senators Sonny Angara, Joel Villanueva, Sherwin Gatchalian, Ronald dela Rosa, Imee Marcos, and Nancy Binay.

Lacson has sponsored the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act, which amends the Human Security Act of 2007, on the Senate floor and is now in the period interpellation.

Under the bill, a suspected terrorist can be detained for 14 days without charges.

Law enforcement or military personnel may also conduct a 60-day surveillance on suspected terrorists, provided that police and military secure a judicial authorization from the Court of Appeals (CA).

The 60-day surveillance may be further lengthened by another non-extendable period of 30 days. 

Authorities who conduct surveillance without a judicial authorization, however, will face 10 to 12 years imprisonment. Likewise, the police or military is obliged to inform the subject of the surveillance after the 90-day judicial authorization lapses.  Failure to do so will also mean imprisonment of 10 to 12 years.

Under the current Human Security Act, there are only four instances for terrorists to be prosecuted : commission of the actual crime of terrorism; conspiracy to commit terrorism; accomplice; and accessory.

Lacson said it is unfair that there are only four instances for terrorists to be prosecuted when there are 20 instances where law enforcers can be charged and penalized for violations of the Human Security Act.

“That is why we only have one conviction under the Human Security Act,” Lacson earlier said.

Mindanao has been under martial rule since May 2017. Military rule was declared over the entire island group in response to the ISIS-inspired Maute Group's attempt  to establish a caliphate in Marawi City.

It was initially valid only for 60 days, but Duterte requested to extend it thrice.

Martial law was expected to end in December 2019 unless extended again by Congress. —LDF, GMA News