Two House panels approve anti-terror bill
MANILA, Philippines — Two committees in the House of Representatives approved Friday a substitute bill seen to toughen up the country’s anti-terrorism policies.
During the joint meeting of the House Committees on Public Order and Safety and on Defense and Security, a majority of members first voted for the adoption of the Senate version of the bill effectively repealing the Human Security Act of 2007 for deliberation.
“The instruction of the House leadership is to somehow submit and approve today a bill that is similar to the Senate bill because of the possibility of avoiding a [bicameral conference],” Masbate 1st District Rep. Narciso Bravo Jr., who chairs the House Committee on Public Order and Safety, said during the hearing.
“The urgency of this bill requires us to really fast track the approval of this bill,” Bravo added.
The still unnumbered substitute bill—based on the adopted Senate version of the bill—was later approved by the committees.
Under the Senate version of the bill, 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 to a terrorist organization.
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.
Further, any person who shall threaten to commit terrorism and those who will propose any terroristic acts or incite others to commit terrorism shall suffer the penalty of 12 years in prison.
Any person who shall voluntarily and knowingly join any organization, association or group of persons knowing that such is a terrorist organization, shall likewise suffer imprisonment of 12 years.
The same penalty shall be imposed on any person found liable as accessory in the commission of terrorism.
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, extendable by another 10 days.
Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon, who serves as the vice chairperson of the House Committee on National Defense and Security, expects “intense” debates on the measure once it reaches the plenary floor.
“On the part of the House, yung mga oppositors in the House have been really vigilant doon sa version ng House, and then suddenly mayibang version na kaharap so automatic yun for that reason mage-debate ‘yan,” Biazon told INQUIRER.net.
But Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate, who voted against the measure,said the bill would only spur human rights violations in the country.
Zarate added that the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and the security sector are pushing for the “draconian measure” because “they would effectively make the country a police state, where protests and dissent are now equated with terrorism.”
“Madaling i-weaponize kapag naging batas ang anti-terror bill sa mga kritiko at mga miyembro ng opposition dahil sa vagueness at broadness ng definition ng terrorism na mas pinalala pa dahil sa kaakibat na broad powers din na ibibigay sa Anti-Terrorism Council na isang de facto junta,” Zarate said.
The Senate approved its version of the bill back in February.
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