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UP law professors call on Duterte to veto anti-terror bill

Faculty members of the UP College of Law have called on President Rodrigo Duterte to veto the Anti-Terrorism bill, saying the measure presents a clear and present danger to the country.

In a statement, the 81 professors of UP College of law said the measure, which allows detention of individuals without a warrant for 14 to 24 days based on suspicion of being a terrorist, pose a chilling effect on free expression and the right to organize and assemble.

“The Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020 poses a clear and present danger to constitutionalism and the rule of law. Some provisions are experiments in suppressing lawful dissent and principled advocacy; for instance, those that pose a chilling effect on free expression and the right to organize and assemble, those that authorize executive orders for arrest and prolonged detention beyond what the law and the Rules of Court provide, those that define broadly yet vaguely the acts that are criminalized and the inclusion of a new offense of ‘Inciting to Terrorism,’” the UP Law professors said in a statement.

“We ask that the officials who advise the President on constitutional and legal matters take their duties seriously, advise the President of the grave constitutional objections and serious implications of the Anti- Terrorism Law of 2020, and for him to veto the law,” they added.

Article 3, Section 4 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution states that “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

Likewise, the UP Law professors also raised alarm on the measure's removal of safeguards against unlawful arrest and detention such as the P500,000 a day penalty for the police for detaining a suspect eventually acquitted of terrorism charges.

“Some of the more important provisions protecting the citizenry against unwarranted arrests and charges have been removed, resulting in less, not more, checks and balances against a law that seeks to confer tremendous power on the executive branch. In the midst of a pandemic that has made our people’s lives even more difficult, more fearful, and more uncertain, the Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020 provides even more reason to be fearful and uncertain,” they said.

“Much has been already said about the Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020. As concerned faculty members of the University of the Philippines College of Law, we add our voices of dissent to the growing chorus. As teachers of the law but more importantly as citizens of this country, we continue to look to our true north—the Constitution, which is the bedrock of our citizenship and the people, whom we serve,” they added.

The professors also cited the words etched in marble at the lobby of Malcolm Hall which states the UP College of Law’s objective “to teach law in the grand manner and to make great lawyers.”

“These are words that impel us to continue to speak out, to explain, to dissent, if necessary, and, in so doing, continue to teach generations of lawyers and advocates taught in the grand manner and form them to be great lawyers. And so, we say no to the Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020,” they said.

The Defense Department and the military earlier assured the public that the anti-terrorism bill will not target the political opposition and other critics of the government.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has said government critics will not be considered as terrorists, while Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) commander Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana argued that the measure will boost their capability to fight lawless elements in his area of responsibility.

“Talagang magkaroon na tayo ng focus in as far as fighting terrorism is concerned, ang kailangan lang dito together with that bill is further capacitating our units in the Armed Forces," Sobejana told reporters.

"Although sa ngayon with our modernization program nandiyan naman halos 'yung mga kagamitan natin. With this issuance, siguro meron pang karagdagang capabilities ang i-introduce sa organization espcially on intelligence aspects," Sobejana added. — RSJ, GMA News