Withdrawal of Anti-Terror Bill authorship ‘not a face-saving move’ — Biazon
MANILA, Philippines — The decision to withdraw authorship of the controversial Anti-Terror Bill was not a “face-saving move” but rather a matter of principle, Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon said Thursday.
Just as there was a clamor on social media after the Anti-Terror Bill hurdled the House, Biazon, who is one of the main authors and sponsors of the measure, explained his “no” vote and eventually withdrew his authorship of the bill.
While some lauded Biazon’s decision, some called it a “face-saving” move especially with the backlash from the online community.
But Biazon said it was not a “face-saving move,” as he reiterated that his decision was based on the fact that what was approved in the lower chamber was not the work of the House, but rather an adopted work of the Senate.
“It’s not face-saving move, it’s a decision of personal principle that if I were take on the heat—because I have done it in the past, in my five terms as a congressman I’ve taken a stand on controversial issues and I did not give in to any public pressure or anyone’s pressure—but this is a matter of principle because, as I said, it was an adoption of the Senate version,” Biazon said in an interview with ANC.
Before the bill reached the plenary floor in the House, two committees in the lower chamber adopted—and eventually approved—the Senate version of the bill in a move to possibly hasten its passage by avoiding the bicameral conference committee.
On Tuesday, the lower chamber approved the Anti-Terror Bill on second reading after merely hours of deliberations and during the period of individual amendments, all proposed amendments were rejected.
“After conferring with the chairperson (Rep. Narciso Bravo), he has instructed me to reiterate that the committee wishes to pass the bill without amendments and we have to regretfully decline any proposal for any amendments at this time,” PBA Rep. Jericho Nograles, another sponsor of the bill, said during Tuesday’s session.
With no amendments accepted, the House version of the measure—in essence—is the same as the Senate’s version.
Biazon said this was the time when he shared contemplating “whether to pursue a piece of legislation that was not really entire or even partially our work in the House of Representatives.”
“When we came to the plenary where members of the House are able to ask and raise questions, as an author I saw that there were some possible amendments that we could make,” Biazon said.
“In fact, during my defense when I was being interpellated, I was asked by the interpellator if I was willing to do some amendments and I said I was willing as an individual author because there were several bills filed, I am just one of them,” the lawmaker added.
Biazon added that he even had some proposed amendments to the measure which lies on Section 25 of the bill which allows the Anti-Terror Council (ATC) to “designate an individual, groups of persons, organization, whether domestic or foreign, upon a finding of probable cause that the individual, groups of persons, organization, or association commit, or attempt to commit or conspire in the commission of acts defined and penalized” under the proposed measure.
Critics of the bill have said that the ATC does not have the power to make a determination of probable cause as it should be under the judiciary.
“As worded, the intention really was for the appropriate office will be the one to make that determination of probable cause, the bill respects the existing judicial process,” Biazon said.
“But I would concede that the way it was worded, it could be interpreted in another way. It could be interpreted by people that it’s the ATC that would make the probable [cause] so I felt that there could be a refinement to this by specifying that determination of probable cause would be by the public prosecutor or the court,” the lawmaker added.
Biazon, however, maintains his position that the country needs a stronger anti-terror law.
“I still maintain my position about the country having a stronger anti-terror law and would still agree that this is something that is necessary to us,” Biazon said.
The House approved on Wednesday the Anti-Terror Bill with 173 affirmative votes, 31 negative votes, and 29 abstentions.
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.
The Senate has approved its own version of the bill as early as February.
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