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Bato says he had to free nabbed ISIS suspect sans anti-terror law

Senator Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa said a personal frustrating experience against terrorism as a former PNP chief was among the reasons why he was supporting  the anti-terror bill which would allow the detention of a suspect without a warrant up to 24 days.

During an interview on GMA News' Quarantined with Howie Severino aired on Monday, Dela Rosa narrated how he got hold of alleged ISIS member Mohammad Reza Kiram after the police killed suspected Jemaah Islamiyah suicide bomber Mohd Noor Fikrie in Davao City almost eight years ago.

"Noong nakuha namin 'yung mag-asawa, sabi sa akin ng intelligence, 'Sir, huwag mong i-release 'yan dahil big time 'yan na ISIS. 'Yan si Mohammad Reza Kiram. 'Yan ang miyembro ng ISIS.' Sabi ko, 'You give me the evidence kasi wala akong legal ground na i-hold itong tao na ito,'" Dela Rosa said.

The former PNP chief said his hands were tied during that time because he might face arbitrary detention if he held Kiram for 36 hours based on Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code without any strong evidence.

After a few months, Dela Rosa said he found himself watching a video of Kiram beheading hostages in Syria.

"Noong ni-release ko, after ilang buwan bumalik sa akin 'yung intelligence, may dala-dalang laptop. Pinakita sa akin 'yung Youtube... nagpupugot ng leeg,'" he said.

"If there was this law (proposed Anti-Terrorism Act) during that time, I could have held Mohammad Reza Kiram for 14 days para makapag-develop ako ng magandang case against him," he said.

In 2018, Kiram was reported to be among the three ISIS recruiters who were barred access to the US financial system.

Dela Rosa said the anti-terror bill which he co-authored allows 14-day detention, extendable by ten more days, to help the state security forces establish a good case against suspected terrorists.

The Human Security Act of 2007 states that "suspects may not be detained for more than three days without the written approval of a municipal, city, provincial or regional official of a Human Rights Commission or judge of the municipal, regional trial court, the Sandiganbayan or a justice of the Court of Appeals nearest the place of the arrest."

"Alam natin ang terrorism is very complicated crime lalung-lalo na kung naghahabol ka sa kanilang money trail o 'yung mga terrorist financing activities na ginagawa lalung-lalo na ang involved taga-ibang bansa," he added.

Dela Rosa underscored that the Human Security Act of 2007—which the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act seeks to repeal—is not being used by the state security forces because of fear of the provision that requires them to pay P500,000 per day that an acquitted suspect is wrongfully detained.

"So kung ilan years 'yan nakakulong, mamatay ka na lang diyan kakahanap ng pera. Wala kang pambayad sa P500,000 a day," Dela Rosa said.

"So ayaw na ayaw talaga naming gamitin. At sa history nga, dahil nga ayaw naming gamitin, isa pa lang since 2007 hanggang ngayon, isa pa lang ang nakonbikto sa Human Security Act. Ito 'yung sa Marawi Siege," he added.

He also dismissed claims that the passage of the bill in Congress has been railroaded amid the COVID-19 pandemic as he stressed that it has long been languishing in the legislative mill.

"Ang terrorism, it is just a lurking in the dark. Anytime it will hit us so kailangan ready tayo palagi. At alam natin kahit na merong pandemya, meron pa ring nangyayaring terorismo," he added.

'Leftists affected'

Dela Rosa also claimed that the left-leaning militant groups are behind the calls to junk the proposed law because they will be affected once it is enacted.

"Ang nag-spearhead talaga nito ngayon, 'yung grabeng effort nila itong kaliwa, 'yung mga taga-kaliwa dahil alam nilang tatamaan ang NPA (New People's Army) dito sa batas na ito," he said.

Senator Panfilo Lacson also previously inferred that  the pending petition of the government to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) as a terrorist organization may have triggered opposition to the bill.

The Manila Regional Trial Court has junked but revived in February a petition seeking a judicial declaration of the CPP's armed wing as a terrorist organization.

The said petition was filed in 2018, months after President Rodrigo Duterte terminated peace talks with the communist group and declared through a proclamation that the CPP-NPA was a terrorist organization.

Meanwhile, Dela Rosa allayed fears that the bill would be abused to muzzle activists.

"Hindi naman hanggang sa pulis lang 'yan mag-interpret ng batas. 'Pag kaso nila, may judge na magsabi, 'No.' Alam na alam ng huwes 'yan kung ano ang inciting to terrorism at saka 'yung expression lang of freedom of speech or advocacy lang niya 'yan," he said.

The anti-terror bill is now up for Duterte's signature after the Congress transmitted it to the Palace on June 9.

Malacañang said the President is expected to receive the opinions of various agencies on the legality of the proposed measure this week. —Dona Magsino/LDF/NB, GMA News