Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Sunday said there will no longer be a need to declare martial law in the country if public safety requires it if the controversial new-anti-terrorism bill will be enacted into law.
Sotto made the remark amid public condemnation for the passage of the new anti-terrorism bill in Congress, which critics said might be used to target individuals who express dissent against the government.
"Hindi na kailangan ng martial law kapag napasa namin itong anti-terror bill," Sotto said in a Dobol B sa News TV interview.
According to Sotto, the new anti-terrorism bill essentially replaces the Human Security Act, which he said is the weakest anti-terrorism policy in the world.
"Ang hinihiling ng Kongreso, kung mapapalitan natin 'yung Human Security Act, sapagkat 'yung Human Security Act natin, 'yung kasalukuyan nating anti-terror bill natin, ito ang pinakamahina sa buong mundo, hindi lang dito sa part ng Asia," he said.
"To give you an example, there are only four instances wherein you can prosecute a terrorist doon sa Human Security Act," he added.
Sotto denied claims that the passage of the new anti-terrorism bill in Congress was railroaded. In fact, he said he first filed the measure in 2018 and it was only approved in the Senate early this year.
"Mga naka-tatlong hearing 'yan. Sa tatlong hearing, lahat ng involved na maaaring may gustong sabihin, inimbita ni Senator Lacson. Si Commission on Human Rights (CHR), um-attend 'yan," he said.
"Kaya nga may special provision doon na kapag may inaresto, ipapaalam agad sa Commission on Human Rights e, at sa pinakamalapit na korte. Hindi naman nila binabasa 'yun e," he added.
Sotto said the President only certified it as urgent in order for Congress to finish its deliberations on the measure before it adjourned sine die on Friday.
"Noong February 2020 namin naipasa 'yan. Ngayon, ang House hindi tapos sa version nila. Kaya ang nangyari, mag-a-adjourn kami ng June 4. E 'di masasayang na naman 'yan. So ni-certify ng Presidente na urgent," he said.
"Sinabi ni Presidente sa kanila hindi porke ni-certify nang urgent ay minadali. It's just doing away with the three-day rule," the Senate President added.
Sotto likewise maintained the need for a provision on warrantless arrest in the new anti-terrorism bill.
He cited, for example, a case where a person is already wearing a suicide vest.
"Pagpalagay mo, meron kang naka-suicide vest, ano ang gagawin mo? Kukuha ka ng warrant? Wala siyang kino-commit na crime, pero nakasuot siya ng suicide vest, kukuha ka ng warrant?" he said.
The lawmaker pointed out that in the case of a warrantless arrest of a person suspected of committing terrorism, involved in terrorism, or inciting to commit terrorism, the nearest court and the CHR should be informed about the arrest.
Sotto also reiterated that the Anti-Terrorism Council cannot just order the arrest of any individual, contrary to what detractors say, as it follows the global standards when it comes to dealing with terrorist organizations set by the United Nations Security Council.
"'Yung Anti-Terrorism Council, 2007 pa lang meron na sa Human Security Act. Tsaka 'yun ang sinusunod noon ay 'yung global standards ng United Nations Security Council sapagkat ito ay global problem, hindi lang ito problema lang ng Pilipinas," he added.
The controversial bill is now up for President Rodrigo Duterte's signature after the House of Representatives approved it on third and final reading on Wednesday.
The House Committees on Public Order and Safety and on National Defense and Security adopted the Senate's version of the measure, which has been approved on third and final reading last February.
Sotto is expecting that the President will sign the measure into law within the week.
"Itong week na papasok, malamang within the next few days pipirmahan ng Presidente 'yun. Nire-review pa naman ng Malacañang 'yun. It will take some days," he said. —Erwin Colcol/KG, GMA News