MANILA, Philippines, February 27 ------ Voting 19-2, the Senate approved on third and final reading Wednesday a proposal that seeks to give more teeth to the country’s “weak” anti-terror law. Only opposition lawmakers Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros voted against Senate Bill 1093, which seeks to amend certain provisions of the Human Security Act of 2007. Under a proposed Anti-Terror Act of 2020, a suspected terrorist can be detained without warrant of arrest for 14 days, which can be extended by 10 days.
It introduced provisions penalizing individuals who will propose, incite, conspire and participate in the planning, training and facilitation of a terrorist act. Those who will provide material support to terrorists and recruit members in a terrorist organization would be also penalized. The proposed legislation also seeks to cover Filipino nationals who commit terrorist offenses The existing Human Security Act has done “virtually nothing” to prevent participation in the plotting of terrorist acts, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who sponsored the bill, earlier said. The counterpart measure at the House remains pending with the committee on public order and safety.
Human rights group Karapatan said the “monster” legislation will provide a pretext for de facto martial law in the country. “The bill, laden with the same vague definitions of the crime terrorism as well as draconian provisions that will certainly violate the people’s constitutional rights and civil liberties, will not solve the root cause of terrorism,” Cristina Palabay, the group’s secretary general, said. She added: “It will only redound to graver human rights violations against communities, groups and individuals that may lead to crimes against humanity.”
Pangilinan said the proposed amendments to the anti-terror law can be likened to the Cold War-era anti subversion law, which can be used to silence democratic dissents. “The key facts during the martial law era reinforce the well-rounded fear of opposition leaders today of being persecuted under the Human Security Act, especially the current authoritarian climate and the likelihood that it will be repeated,” the opposition senator said. He added: “With an administration that has jailed an incumbent senator on a case whose key witnesses are convicted drug lords, that has expressly admired the late dictator, that has repeatedly warned about imposing martial law all over the country, that has in fact imposed martial law in Mindanao under questionable constitutional grounds and not ‘in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it,’ these instances are more than simply déjà vu, they are more like foreboding.”
Lacson earlier assured there are enough safeguards against possible abuses by arresting officers and the amendments were crafted to ensure the rights of accused individuals are protected.