Senate approves new anti-terror bill on 2nd reading
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate has approved on second reading Thursday the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, a measure seen to give more teeth to the country’s existing anti-terrorism law.
Senate Bill No. 1083, authored by Senator Panfilo Lacson, seeks to provide “a clear, concise, balanced and rational anti-terrorism law that adheres to regional and international standards.”
“With (Senate Bill 1083), we can be sure that whether the terroristic act is committed here or abroad, the perpetrator shall be within the arms of the law once he or she comes to our country,” Lacson said.
Lacson, who likewise chairs the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, said the existing Human Security Act “did virtually nothing to deter participation in the plotting of terroristic acts.”
On the other hand, he said the bill introduced provisions penalizing those who will propose, incite, conspire, participate in the planning, training, preparation and facilitation of a terrorist act; as well as those who will provide material support to terrorists, and recruit members in a terrorist organization.
“As a responsible member of the community of nations, we are duty-bound to improve our laws to ensure that we can implement UN Security Council Resolutions, meet international standards, and fulfill state obligations with the United Nations,” Lacson said.
The bill would establish Philippine jurisdiction over Filipino nationals who may join and fight with terrorist organizations outside the Philippines.
It would also ensure that foreign terrorists would not use the country as transit point, a safe haven to plan and train new recruits for terrorist attacks in other countries.
“We send a strong message to them: You are not welcome here. If you dare set foot in our country, you will be dealt with the full power of our laws,” Lacson said, adding that the penalty of life imprisonment without the benefit of parole will be meted out to them.
The bill also removed the provision on payment of P500,000 damages per day of detention of any person acquitted of terrorism charges.
But the number of days a suspected person can be detained without a warrant of arrest is 14 calendar days, extendible by 10 days.
Lacson also gave assurance that there would be enough safeguards against possible abuses by arresting officers.
He said amendments were crafted to ensure that the rights and well-being of the accused individuals or suspected terrorists inside jail facilities are protected.
A new provision also designated certain Regional Trial Courts (RTCs) as Anti-Terror Courts to ensure the speedy disposition of cases.
Under the measure, the use of videoconferencing for the accused and witnesses to remotely appear and testify would be allowed.
The amendments would also provide 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 (CA).
Any law enforcement or military personnel found to have violated the rights of the accused persons shall be penalized with imprisonment of 10 years, Lacson noted.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) shall be notified in case of detention of a suspected terrorist in a bid to to allay concerns of possible excesses by the authorities.
The bill also mandates the CHR to give the highest priority to the investigation and prosecution of violations of civil and political rights of persons and shall have the concurrent jurisdiction to prosecute public officials, law enforcers and other persons who may have violated the civil and political rights of suspects and detained persons.
Edited by EDV
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