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Anti-terror bill 'as good as passed,' says Sotto

The proposed anti-terrorism bill pending in the House of Representatives may soon be cemented as a law after President Rodrigo Duterte certified the measure as urgent, according to Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday.

"It's as good as passed. It will just need my signature if it comes back to us after ratification then I will transmit to the President," Sotto said in a message to GMA News Online.

Last week, two panels in the House of Representatives adopted Senate Bill 1083 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2019 which seeks to virtually repeal the Human Security Act of 2007 and strengthen the country’s anti-terrorism law.

Various groups have raised concerns on the possibility that the proposed law may be used to stifle dissent against the administration and usher in a series of human rights abuses.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, author and sponsor of the bill, reiterated that these concerns have been taken into consideration when the bill was being crafted.

"The concerns being raised by the progressive and leftist groups as well as human rights advocates have been adequately addressed during the Committee on National Defense and Security public hearings as well as the debates and interpellations in plenary," Lacson said in a separate message.

"Enough safeguards are in place. The critics should read first the bill itself to see for themselves what I am saying," he added.

He added that since the bill was certified as urgent by the President, it can be a law soon once the lower house transmits it to the Senate for enrollment and submission to the Palace.

"That gives the bill a chance to [be] enacted into law within 30 days unless vetoed by the President which is very unlikely considering the certification that he issued," Lacson said.

The controversial bill provides for the police or the military to conduct a 60-day surveillance on suspected terrorists, which may be lengthened to another non-extendable period of 30 days, provided that they secure a judicial authorization from the Court of Appeals.

The reglementary period or number of days a suspected terrorist could be detained was increased from the current 36 hours to 14 days but Lacson said safeguards were put in place.

“Kailangan i-inform agad ng law enforcement officer na nagsagawa ng warrantless arrest ang isang judge nearest the place of arrest, inform ang Commission on Human Rights, at ang visitation rights naroon. Walang limit ang pagdalaw ng abogado at babasahan din siya ng kanyang rights under the Constitution, to remain silent, and so forth. So naroon lahat na safeguards,” he previously said.

The P500,000 compensation per day of detention for those wrongfully detained was also removed as it is one of the reasons why law enforcers refuse to file charges in connection with the Human Security Act.

"'Yan ang dahilan ang pulis, NBI, [National Bureau of Investigation] and even the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] are hesitant to file charges using the Human Security Act  kasi takot sila pagka na-dismiss ang kaso pamultahin sila ng P500,000 per day of detention," Lacson said.

Under the bill, those who will propose, incite, conspire, and participate in the planning, training, preparation and facilitation of a terrorist act shall face life imprisonment without parole.

The same punishment shall be faced by those who recruit members of a terrorist organization.

Any person who shall threaten to commit terrorism shall suffer the penalty of 12 years. The same jail term will be meted against those who will propose any terroristic acts or incite others to commit terrorism.

Any person who shall voluntarily and knowingly join any organization, association, or group of persons knowing that such is a terrorist organization, shall also suffer imprisonment of 12 years. —AOL/BM, GMA News