Palace assures anti-terror bill will not curtail freedom of expression
MANILA, Philippines — Unless there is a “clear and present danger,” Malacañang on Wednesday said that the proposed amendments on the country’s anti-terrorism law will not curtail freedom of speech.
“Kahit anong batas, hindi magagamit para supilin ang malayang pananalita unless merong mapapakita po ang gobyerno na clear and present danger,” Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said over Teleradyo, when sought for comment on fears against the proposed measure.
(Whatever law cannot be used to curtail freedom of speech unless the government can show that there is a clear and present danger.)
“Kung wala po ang clear and present danger, alam niyo naman dito sa Pilipinas, sanay tayo, you can anything and everything,” he added.
(If there is no clear and present danger, you know that here in the Philippines, we are used to it, you can say anything and everything.)
President Rodrigo Duterte has certified the bill as urgent. This meant Congress should speed up its passage.
Several groups and lawmakers expressed concern over the anti-terror bill saying it could be “abused” to crackdown on dissent.
But in another interview, Roque explained that the freedom of expression remains guaranteed under the Constitution.
“[If] an act of Congress infringes on the Constitution then it will be declared by courts as unconstitutional. We have established jurisprudence on freedom of expression,” Roque said in an interview over ANC.
“What I’m saying is, despite the law, the Constitution remains as the fundamental guarantee of freedom of expression and the entire jurisprudence that has grown from the Constitutional provision on freedom of expression,” he further said.
Earlier, Roque said there are no “draconian” provisions under the proposed measure, adding that the Philippines is no stranger to terrorist acts.
This, as critics questioned the government’s supposed prioritization of the bill despite existing problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bill penalizes 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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