A security analyst on Sunday stressed the need for a stronger policy against terrorism in the Philippines, pointing out that the threat of terrorism in the country increases during the time of pandemic.
In a Dobol B sa News TV interview, Dr. Rommel Banlaoi, chairman of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, defended the controversial new anti-terrorism bill, which is now up for action by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Banlaoi is part of the group of experts who gave inputs when the measure was still being deliberated in Congress.
According to him, the threat of terrorism in the Philippines is so severe that the country ranks ninth in the Global Security Index, a list of nations greatly impacted by terrorism. The Philippines is the only Southeast Asian country on the list's Top 10, Banlaoi added.
"Ang banta ng terorismo sa bansa ay mas lalong tumaas sa panahon ng pandemic, dahil ginagamit ngayon ng mga pro-ISIS elements sa bansa natin ang pandemic bilang paraan ng pagre-recruit, paghihikayat at pagt-train. At isa sa mga hangarin nila ay mag-train ng suicide bombers at isagawa "yan sa panahon ng pandemic," he said.
"Ang paniniwala nila, ang coronavirus ay bahagi ng kanilang mga sundalo. Ang tawag nga nila diyan ay 'Soldier of Allah,' at bahagi ng kanilang global jihad ang pandemic bilang punishment sa mga infidels. 'Yun ang kanilang narrative na umiikot," the security analyst said.
It is this context, Banlaoi said, that warranted the urgency for the passage of a stronger anti-terrorism law in the country to "put to justice all these personalities propagating the idea of ISIS in the country."
Banlaoi said the new anti-terrorism bill aims to arrest and detain individuals engaged in acts of terrorism as well as to interrogate them to gain knowledge on the entire infrastructure and network of terrorist groups in the country.
With this, the government will not only be able to counter the threat of terrorism in the country but also prevent it, he added.
Banlaoi also said the Human Security Act of 2007, which the new anti-terrorism bill seeks to repeal, is more of a human rights law than an anti-terrorism law.
"[Ang Human Security Act] ay batas para protektahan ang karapatang pantao habang isinasagawa ang operasyon laban sa terorismo. Pero itong batas na pine-present ngayon ay talagang tututukan, lalabanan hindi lamang 'yung actual acts of terrorism, [kundi] pati na rin 'yung conducive conditions that spread acts of terrorism," he said.
"Pati 'yung ugat ng terrorism, hangaring tukuyin ng batas na ito at mabigyan ng focus para maharap natin by the root 'yung problema ng terorismo," he added.
Banlaoi believes the new anti-terrorism bill will be able to help the country efficiently face the threat of terrorism, as long as it is implemented properly and according to the spirit of the law.
Concerns have been raised that the proposed measure might be used to target individuals expressing dissent against the government.
"Walang dapat ikatakot sa batas na ito. At kung meron mang dapat na takot dito ay 'yung mga may masamang hangarin at may masamang intensiyon na magsagawa ng mga acts of terrorism," Banlaoi said.
"'Yung mga tumututol naman sa batas na ito at nangangamba tungkol sa karapatang-pantao, tama na patuloy nilang ipahayag 'yung mga pangamba na 'yan para ma-ensure talaga ng ating law enforcement authority ay hindi lalabag sa karapatang pantao," he added.
As protests against the bill's passage mount, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Saturday said the anti-terror bill did not come from Duterte, nor did he ask for it. —Erwin Colcol/KG, GMA News