Duterte signs Anti-Terrorism Bill

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DAVAO CITY— The plea of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) Parliament of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) is for President Rodrigo Duterte to veto the Senate Bill No. 1083 and House Bill No. 6875 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 did not stop the President to sign the Bill into law Friday.

Duterte signed the bill and it is now a law.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte signed the Anti-Terrorism Act on Friday after weighing the concerns of different groups, demonstrating the government’s commitment to stamping out terrorism.

Roque ensured that the new law would secure the country by going after terror groups.

Thus, the anti-terror law does not target any regional or ethnic group, Roque said.

“Passing class legislation against the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), I would like to stress, would not even cross the minds of the proponents of the said bill. This piece of legislation (anti-terror law) is against terrorists and terrorism and not against a particular regional/ethnic group,” he said.

On the eve of the signing, the members of the parliament earlier asked Duterte to give Congress should be an opportunity to review and address the issues of vagueness, overbreadth, and other concerns.

The BTA in an emergency session on Thursday Parliament member Mohagher Iqbal read the position statement of BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim on the Anti-Terrorism Bill stating “I cannot help but be alarmed by the language and foreseeable consequences of the proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill. This stems from the long history of persecution, human rights violations, and discrimination suffered by the Bangsamoro”.

Ebrahim said the experience of the Bangsamoro “has consistently shown that when agents of the state are given too much discretion, it often leads to abuses”.

As mentioned in the Resolution 239 approved on Thursday, July 2, by Member of Parliament Mohagher Iqbal and 11 other Members of Parliament, the BTA “supports the National Government’s initiative to strengthen the legal framework for preventing, prohibiting, countering, and penalizing terrorism in the name of national security and the general welfare of the public with a whole-of-nation approach that unifies – not divide”.

Former Justice Secretary Antonio Carpio in an opinion published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer on July 2 stated, “The provision of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) that strikes the deadliest blow on fundamental constitutional rights is its Section 29, which extends detention without a judicial warrant, and without judicial charge, to a total of 24 days. The rationale for Section 29 was explained by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, the principal author of the ATA, during the Senate deliberations in this manner”.

However, according to the BTA, “the legislation not only contains provisions that invite questions of constitutionality, overbreadth, and vagueness but also lacks adequate measures against abuse and/or human rights violations”

The BTA identified such provisions as “(a) sanctioning warrantless arrests outside of the limitations allowed by the Rules of Court; (b) allowing wiretapping of private conversations/communications upon ex parte application before the Court of Appeals and without an opportunity for the ‘suspect’ to present countervailing (sic) evidence at any stage of the proceedings; (c) detention of suspects for fourteen to twenty-four (14-24) days without a valid commitment order from the courts, and (d) unilateral designation of persons or groups as ‘terrorists’ by the Anti-Terrorism Council consisting of members appointed by the executive, and lack of remedies to question such designation before the courts”.

The Senate approved on February 29, 2020, theSenate Bill No. 1083 otherwise known as the ‘Anti-Terrorism Bill of 2019, seeking to repeal Republic Act No. 9372 or the Human Security Act of 2007.

The counterpart bill in the House of Representatives, House Bill No. 6875 that adopted the Senate’s version. It was approved on third and final reading in June 2020. Newsline

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