Pangilinan: Anti-terror bill prone to abuse with ‘authoritarian bent’ of Duterte admin
MANILA, Philippines — With the “authoritarian bent” of the Duterte administration, the anti-terrorism bill, once enacted into law, will be prone to possible abuse, according to Senator Francis Pangilinan.
“Given the authoritarian bent of the current administration…who is to be confident that this law will not be abused or used to go after critics?” Pangilinan said in an interview on ABS-CBN News Channel on Wednesday.
The senator cited the case of Senator Leila de Lima, whom he said was detained on the “basis of testimonies of convicted drug lords.”
He also pointed to the ouster of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno as well as the deaths of thousands of drug suspects in the administration’s brutal drug war.
“Sabi nga nila, yung 6,000 sa police encounter sa drug war, nanlaban daw lahat yun. E ‘di pag nakulong yung isang ano ng 24 days, dito sa anti-terror law, ang dali-daling sabihin ‘E nanlaban e, kaya pinatay namin.’ Yun ang nakakatakot,” Pangilinan went on.
(They claimed that the 6,000 drugs suspects killed in police operations resisted arrest. Then what may happen is if someone is detained for 24 days, police can just say ‘Well, they resisted arrest that’s why we killed them.’ That is what we are afraid of).
Under the bill, a suspected person can be detained without a warrant of arrest for 14 calendar days, extendable to 10 days.
The senator also criticized the “misplaced” priorities of the administration considering that the country is currently reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.
“In the overall context of the problem of the pandemic, this is a health crisis. This is an economic crisis. And what is the administration’s response? It closes down ABS-CBN, it certifies as urgent the anti-terror bill,” he said.
“These are not public health strategy approaches, these are not economic crisis strategies. And I believe it’s misplaced at this time,” he added.
Why the ‘no’ vote?
Pangilinan was one of the two lawmakers who voted against the controversial bill when it was approved on third and final in the Senate last February.
He said the non-acceptance of certain amendments he proposed to the bill prompted him to cast a negative vote.
“We proposed amendments but we also placed on record that there were certain amendments that we wanted included but we were informed na hindi tatanggapin (that it will not be accepted),” he said.
“So we manifested that the non-acceptance of a number of amendments that we have wanted to introduce would affect our vote. Precisely, nung hindi nga tinanggap at sinabing hindi tatanggapin, naapektuhan ang ating pagboto, kaya tayo bumoto ng ‘no’ (when it was not accepted, my vote as affected, that’s why I voted ‘no’),” he explained.
Among these amendments were to remedy parts of the bill that would allow for warrantless arrest and detention without charges for up to 14 days.
“Naniniwala tayo na ito’y labag sa ating Saligang Batas,” he said.
(We believe that this goes against the Constitution).
“Pati itong proscription. Yung proscription ibig sabihin, yung korte pwedeng mag-designate, preliminarily, for a period of 6 moths, na isa kang terrorrist organization, ikulong ka, i-freeze yung assets mo,” he added.
(We are also concerned about the proscription. This means that the court could designate, preliminarily, for a period of six months that you are part of a terrorist organization, detain you, freeze your assets).
He said the preliminary proscription would “set aside” the legal principle that a suspect is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
“Kung mapapatunayan mo, after six months, na hindi ka pala terrorist organization saka nila iwi-withdraw yung pag-tag sayo na terrorist organization, Sa atin naniniwala tayo na baliktad, the presumption of innocence has been set aside,” he said.
(If you are able to prove, after six months, that you are not part of a terrorist organization, that’s the time when they would withdraw tagging you as part of a terrorist organization. For us, we believe that there seems to be a reversal, the presumption of innocence has been set aside).
Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senator Panfilo Lacson, the main proponents of the bill in the Senate, have repeatedly defended the measure, assuring that there are “enough safeguards in place.”
The enrolled copy of the bill has already been transmitted to Malacañang for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature.
Duterte could either sign the bill into law immediately or veto it. He could also allow the measure lapse into law after 30 days of receipt without signing it.
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