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Lorenzana says new anti-terror law will be timely

/ 06:22 PM June 03, 2020

MANILA, Philippines—Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday (June 3) said legislation pending in Congress to amend the existing anti-terror law came at the right time as the COVID-19 pandemic opens opportunities for terrorists to strike.

“The bill has been cooking in Congress for the past year,” Lorenzana said at an interview with CNN Philippines.

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“We need it now because the threat is very great,” said Lorenzana, without elaborating on the threat.

“This is, to me, is high time that this bill is approved and passed into law,” he said.

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President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday (June 1) certified the anti-terrorism bill as urgent, which assures its passage by the two chambers of Congress.

Critics have questioned the timing of the bill, saying the government’s attention is being drawn away from a more urgent matter—the health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lorenzana said the proposed legislation carried enough safeguards against abuses in response to claims made by different groups that a tougher law on terrorism was likely to lead to human rights violations.

Lorenzana said the proposed law does not consider critics of the government as terrorists.

“No, they are not terrorists,” Lorenzana said.

“Anybody who makes a peaceful protest they are not terrorists,” said Lorenzana.

“It is enshrined in our Constitution that you can do peaceful protest, a peaceful assembly, those are actually protected by the Bill of Rights,” he said. “So they are not terrorists,” he added.

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Lorenzana also defended a provision in the proposed law that would allow the detention of terror suspects for up to 24 days without charges.

“The previous one, which is 36 hours, I think is a joke,” he said.

“To detain people for 36 hours, you do not have enough time to substantiate your charges. You cannot research,” Lorenzana added.

“Even 72 hours or three days is very short,” he said.

“We want it to make it a longer detention period so we can hold the suspect. If he is really a terrorist then we can hold him longer, he cannot commit a terror act,” he added.

Edited by TSB

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TAGS: anti-terror law, Congress, Coronavirus, Delfin Lorenzana, detention, Human rights, law, Military, Terrorism
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