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We can never let our guard down against terrorism, says Cayetano

The country should always be vigilant against acts of terrorism and be on the lookout for whatever terrorists plan to do, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said.

Cayetano made the remark on Saturday following the House of Representatives' approval of the controversial new anti-terrorism bill, which is now up for President Rodrigo Duterte's signature.

In a Facebook post, Cayetano said that terrorism "is an ever-evolving issue that all countries—not just the Philippines—are grappling with right now.”

“And the fact is, it isn’t just governments that are adapting, but also the terrorists. Every time we have a new law, new weapons, or effective approaches and strategies against terrorism, the enemy also evolves, becoming more fierce, determined, and innovative in their efforts to destroy and kill people,” he said.

"What this means is that we can never let our guard down. Not against over-reach by [the] government, nor the acts of terrorists. But contrary to what critics insist— these two objectives should not be mutually exclusive. With more trust and less politics, I am confident that we can have both," he added.

Cayetano said that the new anti-terrorism bill is not meant to target those who express dissent to the government.

“The proposed law is clear—its target is terrorism, not activism,” he said.

Cayetano urged the public to take into consideration Leyte Representative Lucy Torres-Gomez's view on the need for a new anti-terrorism law.

In her own Facebook post, Gomez said the Human Security Act, which the new anti-terrorism bill seeks to repeal, is not enough to fight terrorism.

She said that 13 years after it was enacted, only one person was actually convicted under HSA, in connection with the Marawi siege.

"Contrary to popular belief now, one cannot be easily called or ‘designated’ a terrorist. This law is not meant to arrest regular protestors fighting for causes they believe in. This law is meant to prevent fatal and disastrous terrorist events from happening," Gomez said.

“I agree that the timing could be better, in view of Covid-19. But on the flip side, know also that the pandemic will not deter terrorist plots. In fact, this is a vulnerable time for us. This bill has been languishing in Congress since 2016. This went through many hearings in the committee level, long before it reached plenary. Perhaps we can all agree that there is no better time than the present to protect our people from the threats of terrorism,” she added. — Erwin Colcol/BM, GMA News