Senator Leila De Lima on Wednesday dismissed claims that critics of the anti-terror bill were being "disinformed" as she pointed out that they simply chose not to turn a blind eye on the issue.
"In an unprecedented show of unity, artists, social media influencers, and now athletes have joined our activists, human rights defenders and the academe in protesting against the Terror Bill," De Lima said in a statement.
"No, the public is not being 'disinformed' about the dangers of the Terror Bill. People are simply ‘waking up.' A citizenry’s renewed vigilance guarding against threats to civil liberties, protecting our democracy, standing up for our freedoms," she added.
De Lima said Malacañang and the proponents of the bill thought the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic could be taken advantage of to push for the controversial bill.
"Perhaps, they saw in the current crisis situation a 'strategic' opportunity to push for such a draconian measure, thinking that people are too preoccupied and overburdened by COVID-related concerns and challenges. They are under too much mental, physical and economic duress to care about other issues, let alone to resist," she said.
But the timing was still not right as the public witnessed how the police "clamped down against the poor and the powerless" during the community quarantine, according to De Lima.
"They were forced to pay exorbitant bail or suffer extended periods in detention for their audacity to protest. All the while, those in power like NCRPO Chief Debold Sinas remain unpunished for violating quarantine rules," she added.
The detained lawmaker also underscored that the impunity in alleged extrajudicial killings linked to the administration's drug war also affected public trust on the proposed anti-terror law.
"Hanggang ngayon, nananatiling pangarap lamang ang hustisya para sa libo-libong pinaslang sa pangalan ng 'War on Drugs.' How can the police give assurance that the same will not happen under the proposed Terror Bill? Nananaginip ba sila?" she said.
"Would it be too much of a wishful thinking to expect a presidential veto, at least as a face-saving political stunt? Who knows?" she added.
Among the controversial provisions of the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act were the extension of detention period for those arrested without warrant from the current 36 hours to 14 days, which is extendable by 10 more days; the court's issuance of preliminary proscription order within 72 hours; and the allegedly "ambiguous" definition of what constitutes terrorism.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, author of the bill, has repeatedly underscored that activism is not considered terrorism after criticisms mounted against the measure.
He said tough safeguards were put in place to ensure that the proposed law will not trample on the Bill of Rights.
The said bill was transmitted to Malacanang on Tuesday, awaiting President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to approve, veto, or let it lapse into law. -MDM, GMA News