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Lacson: Proposed Anti-Terrorism Act has safeguards vs. rights abuses

Senator Panfilo Lacson on Thursday said he told oppositors of the proposed Anti-Terrorism Law that there are enough safeguards in the measure to prevent abuse and human rights violations.

Lacson acknowledged the concerns of Senators Risa Hontiveros and Francis Pangilinan but said the Senate thoroughly discussed the bill.

“Senator Risa approached me yesterday to air her sentiments. Hindi naman siya totally against the passage of the measure but ‘yung mga concerns niya regarding some provisions na pinag-usapan naman nang masinsinan,” he said during the Kapihan sa Senado.

“Hindi mo naman talaga masa-satisfy lahat especially a measure like this that is controversial, contentious, merong hindi sasang-ayon. We understand their position,” he added.

He said the bill allows surveillance but that the permit should come from the Court of Appeals instead of the current regional trial court (RTC).

“Lahat naman may legal procedures na susundin. In fact, hindi lang RTC, sa intervention ni [Minority Leader Franklin] Drilon, inakyat pa namin ito sa CA, ang pagkuha ng judicial authorization to conduct surveillance. Pati ang proscription, in-elevate din yan sa Court of Appeals,” he said.

The bill provides for the police or the military to conduct a 60-day surveillance on suspected terrorists, which may be lengthened to another non-extendable period of 30 days, provided that they secure a judicial authorization from the Court of Appeals.

Lacson said he and Drilon agreed that there could be abuses if the issuance of the order of proscription will be left to the regional trial courts.

“Remember, may feature dito na hindi lang proscription per se but nagkaroon ng preliminary order of proscription, parang TRO [temporary restraining order] ito, within a certain period of time, pwedeng ang mga member na nakalista, after due process is observed, pwedeng arestuhin at ikulong temporarily within a reglamentary period of 14 calendar days,” he said.

He added, as one of the safeguards, the preliminary order of proscription should either be lifted or made permanent within a period of 20 days.

He said the reglamentary period or number of days a suspected terrorist could be detained was increased from the current 36 hours to 14 days but there were also safeguards put in place.

“Kailangan i-inform agad ng law enforcement officer na nagsagawa ng warrantless arrest ang isang judge nearest the place of arrest, inform ang Commission on Human Rights, at ang visitation rights naroon. Walang limit ang pagdalaw ng abogado at babasahan din siya ng kanyang rights under the Constitution, to remain silent, and so forth. So naroon lahat na safeguards,” he said.

Lacson said they decided to increase the reglamentary period because terrorism is not an ordinary crime against persons or property but a crime against humanity.

“Ang impact nito sa destruction ng lives and property masyadong massive and masyadong indiscriminate. And we’re just trying to be at par with other countries especially neighboring countries natin. Singapore ang reglamentary period ay 732 days tapos pwede pa mag-extend indefinitely. Tayo ang isa sa pinakamababa, 14 days reglamentary period para mag-detain without warrant,” he further said.

He said they removed the P500,000 compensation per day of detention for those wrongfully detained because it is one of the reasons law enforcers refuse to file against in connection with the Human Security Act.

“‘Yan ang dahilan ang pulis, NBI, [National Bureau of Investigation] and even the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] are hesitant to file charges using the Human Security Act  kasi takot sila pagka na-dismiss ang kaso pamultahin sila ng P500,000 per day of detention,” he said.

The senator said they also increased the penalty for any law enforcer or military personnel found to have violated the rights of the accused to 10 years imprisonment.

He said the bill underwent a series of consultations from different resource persons and groups like the academe, civil society organizations, and Commission on Human Rights to ensure that that there are more than enough safeguards.

Voting 19-2, the Senate approved on third and final reading Wednesday Senate Bill 1083 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2019, amending the Human Security Act of 2007.

The bill includes a new section on foreign terrorist fighters to cover Filipino nationals who commit terrorist offenses abroad.

It also introduced provisions imposing life imprisonment without parole on 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.

Under the bill, any person who shall threaten to commit terrorism shall suffer the penalty of 12 years. The same jail term will be meted against those who will propose any terroristic acts or incite others to commit terrorism.

Any person who shall voluntarily and knowingly join any organization, association, or group of persons knowing that such is a terrorist organization, shall suffer imprisonment of 12 years. The same penalty shall be imposed on any person found liable as accessory in the commission of terrorism.

The measure not only establishes Philippine jurisdiction over Filipino nationals who may join and fight with terrorist organizations outside the Philippines but also ensures that foreign terrorists do not use the country as a transit point, a safe haven to plan and train new recruits for terrorist attacks in other countries.

A new provision, designating certain regional trial courts (RTCs) as Anti-Terror Courts, was also introduced to ensure the speedy disposition of cases.

Also, the use of videoconferencing for the accused and witnesses to remotely appear and testify will be allowed under the measure. — BM, GMA News