Robredo: None of COVID-19 problems can be solved by Anti-Terror Bill
MANILA, Philippines – Not a single of the myriad of problems brought by the COVID-19 pandemic can be solved by the administration-backed Anti-Terror Bill, Vice President Leni Robredo insisted on Wednesday.
Robredo explained that the timing of the push for House Bill No. 6875 is off because the spread of the latest coronavirus strain — which she considered one of the largest problems faced by humanity — would need attention from both government officials and critics.
The Vice President labeled several problems that the country’s healthcare systems encountered, like the limited capacity for COVID-19 testings, lack of personal protective equipment, the inadequate transportation modes, and the slow distribution of the social aid — issues that the Anti-Terror Bill would not be of any help.
“Wala ni isa sa mga nabanggit kong pangangailangan ang matutugunan ng batas na ito,” Robredo said in a statement. “Kailangan kong idiin: Ang COVID-19 ang pinakamatinding krisis na sinapit ng sangkatauhan sa loob ng maraming henerasyon, at walang ibang paraang daigin ito kundi ang ibuhos ang buong lakas ng bawat indibiduwal, bawat grupo, bawat institusyon sa pagtugon. All hands on deck ang kailangan.”
“Maliban sa pagiging wala sa timing, gusto ko ring linawin kung ang batas nga bang ito ang sagot sa terorismo […] Ang tanong ko nga: Terorismo ba talaga ang tuon ng Terror Bill? O gusto lang nitong bigyan ng kapangyarihan ang estado para bansagang terorista kung sino man ang kanilang gusto?” she asked.
Robredo emphasized that while she is against terrorism, crafting a law that would bring drastic changes to the already existing Human Security Act of 2007 should not be rushed.
Last Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte wrote a letter to House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, certifying HB 6875 as urgent. The House adopted the Senate’s version of the bill, and has recently approved it on second reading.
Human rights organizations and various progressive groups are wary that the Anti-Terror Bill might be used to stifle groups and personalities criticizing the government, as the bill allows law enforcers to conduct electronic surveillance and warrantless arrests.
Law enforcers’ liability for failure or late delivery of arrested suspects is also removed while suspected terrorists can be arrested without warrants — leading some to question whether it would grant the executive branch powers belonging to the judiciary.
Several groups also made statements similar to Robredo’s, asking why the government is fixated on the Anti-Terror Bill when it cannot even solve the problems related to the pandemic.
Administration officials and supporters of the bill however assured that there are safeguards against abuse, with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana saying that the provisions ensure the protection of human rights.
But for Robredo, discussions about the Anti-Terror Bill should come later, after the government is capable of managing the COVID-19 outbreaks.
“Inuulit natin ang panawagan: Itutok sana ng bawat institusyon ang buo at walang-kahating atensyon sa pagtugon sa mga pinakaagaran at pinakamahahalagang pangangailangan,” Robredo noted.
“Huwag madaliin ang pagpanday ng batas, lalo na ang mga batas na direktang nakakaapekto sa buhay at paraan ng pamumuhay ng napakarami sa atin. Sikapin sana nating maisalamin nito ang saloobin at adhikain ng taumbayan. Hinihimok natin ang ating mga mambabatas: Magpamalas sana sila ng ibayong pakikinig at paninilay sa pagpanday ng Terror Bill,” she added.
INQUIRER.net is trying to get the side of Malacañang but has yet to respond as of posting time.
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