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Anti-terror bill gets final Senate nod; 2 senators vote against measure

/ 03:57 PM February 26, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate on Wednesday approved on third and final reading an act seen to toughen up the country’s anti-terrorism policies.

Voting 19-2, senators approved Senate Bill 1083 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 seeking to amend the Human Security Act of 2007.

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Opposition Senators Risa Hontiveros and Francis Pangilinan, however, voted against the measure.

Under the measure, there are provisions introduced on 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.

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The bill also seeks the establishment of Philippine jurisdiction over Filipino nationals who may join and fight with terrorist organizations outside the Philippines and ensure that foreign terrorists do not use the country as a transit point and as a safe haven to plan and train new recruits for terrorist attacks in other countries.

“We recognize the hours of readings, research, and interviews that went in the crafting, sponsorship, and final defense of the measure,” Pangilinan said in explaining his “no” vote.

“However, the amendments to the Human Security Act right before us will, among others, allow law enforcers or military personnel to place individuals and organizations under surveillance; compel telcos to divulge their calls and messages; arrest these people without warrant, and detain them for an extended period up to 14 days,” he added.

Pangilinan also noted that the measure would allow “regional trial courts to outlaw an organization as a terrorist at the requests of even foreign and supra-national jurisdictions.”

“It likewise removes the compensation for persons wrongfully detained,” he said.

“At a time when legitimate critics and democratic dissent are being silenced, the Human Security Act could be likened to a certain extent the anti-subversion law during martial law, and may be used against opposition leaders,” he added.

For Hontiveros, safety and security “can never be at the expense of the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by our constitution.”

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“I firmly believe that Congress should do all it can to ensure the safety and security of the Filipino people, particularly from acts of terror and other forms of violence,” she said in explaining her negative vote.

“Acts of terror do more than destroy the lives of the people directly affected, they also lead to economic disruption and uncertainty, as well as an atmosphere of fear and paranoia,” she added.

The senator expressed fear that certain provisions of the bill—specifically those allowing the preliminary proscription of suspected terrorist organizations prior to their being given an opportunity to be heard as well as those lowering the standard for warrantless arrest and detention—may “go too far and might lead to a number of pernicious consequences.”

“As I premised in my interpellation… we must craft laws presuming the most despotic of implementors instead of the most benevolent of leaders,” Hontiveros said.

“After conferring with the Sponsor, it is with deep regret that I must vote against his proposed measure amending the Human Security Act – a measure that I know is very important to him and that he sincerely believes will be supremely beneficial for Philippine Society,” she added.

“I hope he understands that my convictions—as well as my faith in the fundamental freedoms enshrined in our Constitution—do not allow me to do otherwise,” she further said.

Edited by MUF/EDV
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TAGS: anti-terror bill, Human Security Act, Nation, news, Senate
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