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Ateneo, La Salle officials join opposition vs. anti-terror bill

The Ateneo and De La Salle universities have joined calls opposing the passage of anti-terror bill, saying that the measure would only bring additional burden to people amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a joint statement, the 16 signatories said the passage of the bill -- which was certified urgent by President Rodrigo Duerte -- was "ill-timed."

"As our people continue to struggle in coping with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, our attention, efforts, and resources should focus on fighting the virus and in helping our people,” the statement read.

"Many have died and continue to suffer from the pandemic. Our health systems and personnel are stretched to their limits. Many have lost jobs and are hungry. The Anti-Terror Bill adds to people’s anxieties and fears," it added.

The university officials then argued that public officials should prioritize improving the country's health system, providing support to health workers, ensuring food for communities providing jobs for the people.

The anti-terrorism bill seeks to virtually repeal the Human Security Act of 2007, the country's existing law against terrorism. The bill was approved by the House of Representatives on third and final reading on Wednesday. The Senate version of the bill was passed last February.

The measure became an enrolled bill since there were no disagreeing provisions between the Senate and the House versions.

"Many of the provisions under this bill are couched in language that is sweeping and equivocal as to be easily subject to misinterpretation and abuse," the joint statement said.

"Worrisome are the expanded and vague definitions of a 'terrorist'; the powers given to the Anti-Terror Council to designate a group as a “terrorist group”; the weakening of the protection of one’s privacy and the safeguards against arrests and detention without warrants," it added.

The educators said that they are willing to work with the government in crafting a better version of the bill that can uproot terrorism while addressing the people's concerns about their basic rights. --Llanesca T. Panti/KBK, GMA News