Former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Monday laid out some alternative measures that the government can implement to prevent terrorist activities in the Philippines without passing the controversial anti-terror bill into law.
First on his list is the implementation of the national identification system which would serve as a database of biometric features of all citizens and can be used to deter local terrorism.
"It has been passed into law in 2018, but [President Rodrigo] Duterte refuses to implement it. Probably out of fear that his thousands of ghost employees in Davao City government would be discovered," Trillanes said in a statement.
However, Duterte recently stressed the importance of the national ID system to avoid the convoluted distribution of emergency subsidy amid the COVID-19 situation.
"Kung may ID system lang tayo, naiwasan natin itong mga ‘to,” he said.
Second on Trillanes' list of suggestions was to increase the intel funds of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
"All effective counterterrorism programs are contingent on effective and timely intel operations. Even if you have the strictest law on anti-terrorism, if you don't know who and where they are, how could you possibly arrest them?" he asked.
A staunch critic of Duterte, Trillanes claimed the bulk of the current government's intel funds were allocated to the Office of the President.
Intel sharing with allies comes third on the former senator's list. He stressed that the US, EU, ASEAN, and Australia, among others, have enough capabilities to track down foreign terrorists on their databases.
Further, Trillanes urged the government to bring back the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US and to fully implement the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.
"The past several years, the AFP has benefited greatly from the ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) operations of the US armed forces. This led to the containment of the Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups before Duterte came into power," he said.
"Unfortunately, Duterte sat on the EDCA implementation and eventually abrogated the VFA," he added.
In February, Duterte unilaterally decided to terminate the VFA, which governs the conduct of visiting US personnel holding military exercises in the country.
Implementing strict border protocols in airports and seaports was Trillanes' fifth suggestion.
He underscored that the alleged "pastillas bribery scheme" at the Bureau of Immigration exposed the lax border protocols of the country.
"Criminals and terrorists can smoothly go through immigration checks by just paying BI officials. Again, even if you have the strictest law against terrorism, it won't matter if the law enforcers themselves are corrupt," Trillanes said.
The ex-senator said his policies are "very doable" and that their immediate implementation would address the threat of terrorism without enacting into law what he called an "unconstitutional terror bill."
"But then again, we all know that this bill was less about running after real terrorists than silencing legitimate political dissent," he said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, on the other hand, said he will be "eagle-eyed and vigilant" in guarding against abuse of the measure which he authored because he regarded any abuse as a bigger challenge since he was “going all in on this." — DVM, GMA News