Lacson assures critics of Anti-Terror Bill: Safeguards set vs abuse
MANILA, Philippines – The Anti-Terrorism Bill recently passed by the Senate has several safeguards to prevent law enforcers from abusing its provisions, Senator Panfilo Lacson assured critics of the measure.
According to Lacson, all the provisions of Senate Bill No. 1083 which are seen to amend the Human Security Act of 2007, like electronic surveillance and warrantless arrests, would have to follow through a procedure.
The senator explained during Thursday’s Kapihan sa Senado that Senator Franklin Drilon’s amendment was included, wherein the Court of Appeals would now be the judicial body authorized to grant surveillance permits and not Regional Trial Courts (RTC).
“Hindi naman pwedeng basta mag-conduct ng electronic surveillance or whatever kind of surveillance kung di ka kukuha ng permiso sa korte […] in this proposed measure, in-elevate din yan sa Court of Appeals, the reason being baka kasi sa dami ng RTCs na baka ma-abuso naman ang pag-i-issue ng order of proscription,” Lacson noted.
(Electronic surveillance or any other kind of surveillance cannot be conducted without getting permission from the court, in this proposed measure, it was elevated to the Court of Appeals, the reason being is that the order of proscription may be abused with the several RTCs we have.)
He also added that there are conditions for law enforcers to make warrantless arrests, one of which is that either the crime has just been committed, about to be committed, or is currently being carried out. Aside from that, a judge and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) should be notified also.
“Lahat na safeguards naman naroon. Ang arrest without warrant, susundin pa rin ang panuntunan sa pag-aresto ng walang warrant, ang citizens’ arrest. Kailangan […] may personal knowledge ang law enforcement officer na magko-conduct ng arrest,” he said.
(All the safeguards are there. An arrest without warrant, the rules of warrantless arrests and citizens’ arrest would be followed. The law enforcement officer conducting the arrest should have personal knowledge of the incident.)
“Hinabaan ang reglementary period. But may safeguards ding nakapaloob doon. At ang visitation rights naroon. Walang limit ang pagdalaw ng abogado at babasahan din siya ng kanyang rights under the Constitution, to remain silent, and so forth,” he added.
(The reglementary period has been extended, but there are safeguards within it. There are visitation rights, and there is no limit to the visitation of lawyers. Their constitutional rights would also be read.)
After the Senate voted 19-2 to pass the Anti-Terror Bill on Wednesday, opposition groups warned that the measure may be used by the government to silence dissent, as several groups may be accused of terrorist acts.
According to the human rights group Karapatan, the legislation would push for a de facto martial law, as the government can use it to spy and arrest its critics.
“The bill, laden with the same vague definitions of the crime of terrorism as well draconian provisions that will certainly violate the people’s constitutional rights and civil liberties, will not solve the root causes of terrorism,” Karapatan said in a statement.
“It will only redound to graver human rights violations against communities, groups, and individuals that may lead to crimes against humanity,” they added.
Meanwhile, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) likened the proposal to the Anti-Subversion Act implemented under former president Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law rule, which was infamous for forced disappearances, warrantless arrests, and other human rights violations.
“It’s like Marcos’ Anti-Subversion Act all over again, but this time instead of communism, the pretext is terrorism,” Bayan said.
However, Lacson, a former police chief, assured that the bill would not trample on the freedom of expression of groups and individuals who are merely criticizing the government as terrorism was defined properly.
He also assured that the law would only be used to target legitimate terrorist groups, like the local-based Abu Sayyaf Group and the Islamic State (ISIS), which has played huge roles in attacks in Mindanao including the Marawi siege.
“Hindi kasama ang freedom of expression naroon, ang freedom of assembly naroon. Napakaklaro sa batas na hindi kasama ang activities na in the exercise of legitimate dissent. Hindi kasama yan doon,” he said.
(Freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are not included there. It is so clear in the law that activities in the exercise of legitimate dissent are not included.)
“Every now and then we’ll be hearing about suicide bombers. Nagkaroon tayo ng first case of suicide bombing very recently. At ang ISIS narito na sa PH. So it’s about time we strengthen our laws against terrorism,” he added.
(“Every now and then we’ll be hearing about suicide bombers. We recently had the first case of suicide bombing, and ISIS is already here in the Philippines. So it’s about time we strengthen our laws against terrorism.)
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