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Esperon: Anti-terrorism law critics could be supporters of terrorists

Anti-Terrorism Law Hermogenes Esperon

National Security Adviser Secretary Hermogenes Esperon Jr. on Sunday hit back at critics who opposed the enactment of the Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020, saying they could be "supporters" of terrorists.

In a Dobol B sa News TV interview, Esperon maintained that the new anti-terrorism law does not target activists and dissenters of the government.

"Doon sa definition ng terrorism, Section 4, sinasabi doon na hindi kasali ang mga dissent, advocacy, mass actions, at other similar exercise of civil and political rights. Nandoon mismo sa definition ng terrorism yan," he said.

"So anong sinasabi nila na mawawalan ng human rights? Palagay ko yung mga nagsasabi niyan, yung mga supporter ng mga terorista," he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday signed RA 11479, or the Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020, despite objections from various groups, including the United Nations human rights body and the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.

While the law was being deliberated in Congress, concerns were raised that the proposed measure might be used to target individuals that express dissent against the government.

But Esperon insisted that the law will not limit and not trample on human rights.

"Pwede naman silang magmartsa diyan hangga't gusto nila maski na isang linggo pa sila diyan," he said.

"Pwede rin silang mag-demonstrate dahil yan naman ay guaranteed na freedom of expression basta tahimik lang silang mag-rally diyan at ilatag ang kanilang niloloob. Poprotektahan pa natin sila," he added.

After the enactment of the law, a group led by Ateneo and La Salle law professor and lecturer Howard Calleja filed a petition before the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the act.

Senator Francis Pangilinan also said he is preparing a petition to question the law before the high tribunal.

On the other hand, Esperon said their legal team is ready to answer the issues being raised in the petitions against the law before the Supreme Court.

Even the President himself studied the law carefully, he added.

He also said that they are open to recommendations from lawmakers to be included in the implementing rules and regulations of the law.

"Ngunit kailangan yung implementing rules and regulations na gagawin natin ay talagang dapat naaayon doon sa batas na ginawa," he said.

Esperon reiterated that activism is not terrorism, and at the same time, terrorism is not activism.

"Huwag silang mag-alala, kaming miyembro ng Anti-Terrorism Council, we'll see to it na this will be an opportunity for us to nurture a culture of security based on orderliness, legality and due consideration for human life and human rights," he said. —LBG, GMA News