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Stronger anti-terrorism law can prevent Philippines from becoming terrorist haven —Lacson

Senator Panfilo Lacson on Sunday stressed the need for a stronger anti-terrorism law to prevent the country from being a safe heaven for terrorists.

Lacson made the remark as he defended the passage of the controversial new anti-terrorism bill in Congress.

In a Dobol B sa News TV interview, Lacson, one of the authors of the Senate version of the new anti-terrorism bill, said the United Nations Security Council has earlier issued a resolution urging countries, not just the Philippines, to come up with a strong legal backbone to counter international terrorism.

He pointed out that terrorism has already "mutated" to go beyond mere acts of bombing or killing.

"Ang iniiwasan natin, maging safe haven ang Philippines kasi tayo ang may pinakamahina," Lacson said.

According to the senator, the existing Human Security Act of 2007, which the new anti-terrorism bill seeks to repeal, is "severly underutilized," if not considered a "dead-letter law," as it only was able to convict a single person.

He said the judge who was able to convict the person under the Human Security Act was Judge Felix Reyes, president of the Philippine Judges' Association.

Reyes supposedly told them that it was difficult to convict a person under the Human Security Act. For one, police are afraid to file a case under the law as they may be made to pay a fine of P500,000 a day for any wrongful detention.

Lacson also said that out of the 735 persons deprived of liberty considered "high-risk" according to the report of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, not one was charged for violating the Human Security Act, but for murder, kidnapping, illegal possession of firearms and other common crimes.

"Ang problema doon, nawawalan ng karapatan ang gobyerno magsagawa ng program of de-radicalization. Sa halip na ma-deradicalize ang mga detainees, sila ang nagre-recruit sa loob ng preso kasi ang kaso nila common crimes," he said.

"Dapat may programa ang gobyerno na ito may psychiatrists, psychologists na mag-a-attend sa kanila. Special ang treatment sa kanila para hindi sila makapag-recruit sa loob ng preso. At sila mabago ang kaisipan tungkol sa terorismo," he added.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved on third and final reading House Bill 6875, or its version of the new anti-terrorism bill.

Prior to this, 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.

With no disagreeing provisions between the Senate and the House version, the measure immediately becomes an enrolled bill for action of the President.

However, concerns have been raised that the proposed measure might be used to target individuals that expressed dissent against the government.

Lacson doused these fears as the new anti-terrorism bill does not cover rallies or other forms of complaints to the government.

"Napakalinaw ng nakasaad dito na 'shall not include.' Mag-strike kayo, murahin nyo ng murahin si Presidente araw-araw sa ibang kaso kayo makukulong, hindi sa anti-terrorism," he said. 

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said earlier on Sunday that he is expecting that the President will sign the measure into law within the week—Erwin Colcol/KG, GMA News