Lucy Torres-Gomez: Terrorists ‘literally having more fun in PH’
MANILA, Philippines — Terrorists are “literally having ‘more fun in the Philippines’” for lack of tougher laws against terrorism, Leyte Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez said as she defended the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
In a lengthy Facebook post Thursday night, Gomez urged critics to read the measure first and “not rely on second-hand opinions of others, who may have been influenced by those who twisted the interpretation of actual sections of the bill to suit their accusations.”
The lawmaker cited the double-bombing of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Jolo back in 2019 where 20 people died and 120 others sustained injuries.
She said that the bombing could have been prevented if the Human Security Act of 2007, which the anti-terror bill seeks to essentially repeal, provided for the arrest of foreign nationals suspected of terrorism.
There are many stories that I can share with you about terrorism in our country but for now let me highlight just one. …
“It would be wise to review the Human Security Act of 2007 to understand its significant shortcomings, such that a new law to repeal it was deemed necessary,” she said.
“The most glaring is that the HSA is not equipped to help us PREVENT a terrorist act from being undertaken,” the lawmaker added.
In the 13 years of the implementation of the HSA, Gomez said that only one person — who was involved in the 2017 Marawi siege — was convicted under the measure.
The lawmaker said that the country’s “inability” to arrest and prosecute suspected terrorists “keeps law enforcement’s hands tied until a terrorist event occurs.”
“It’s like giving the terrorists a free pass, telling them that we are just going to watch their acts of terror unfold first, and then we get our cue to run after them,” Gomez said.
“The terrorists are literally having ‘more fun in the Philippines,’ because our laws allow it so. This makes us a very conducive venue to undertake, plan and prepare for terrorist activities,” she added.
Gomez further noted that the Philippines has become a “haven” for terrorist groups such as ISIS to recruit.
Strong opposition vs anti-terror bill
The controversial measure is now only awaiting the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte for it to become a law.
This came after both houses of Congress—the Senate and the House of Representatives—voted to pass the measure.
“This past week, we have seen strong opposition against HB 6875 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020… I urge you all to read the bill first-hand and not rely on second-hand opinions of others, who may have been influenced by those who twisted the interpretation of actual sections of the bill to suit their accusations,” she said.
Gomez addressed certain questions regarding the bill, particularly on claims that it is anti-activism.
“This law is not meant to arrest regular protestors fighting for causes they believe in. This law is meant to prevent fatal and disastrous terrorist events from happening,” she said, adding there are already existing laws on inciting rebellion and sedition under the Revised Penal Code “which are more incriminating than this Anti-terrorism bill.”
“Will this bill hinder you from attending rallies? It will not. And you also cannot be arrested for attending JUST ANY RALLY… It is misleading to take either just the intentions or just the actions and insist those to be the definition of a suspected terrorist. And if we all just understand that the intentions and actions that constitute terrorism are really GRAVE and DEVASTATING to our country, we will not let fear get in the way of apprehending and bringing REAL TERRORISTS to justice,” she said.
Under the bill, terrorism is committed by an person who within or outside the Philippines, regardless of the stage of execution:
- engages in acts intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to any person, or endangers a person’s life;
- engages in acts intended to cause extensive damage or destruction to a government or public facility, public place or private property;
- engages in acts intended to cause extensive interference with, damage or destruction to critical infrastructure;
- develops, manufactures, possesses, acquires, transport, supplies or uses weapons, explosives or of biological, nuclear, radiological or chemical weapons; and,
- release of dangerous substances, or causing fire, floods or explosions
Powerful Anti-Terror Council
Gomez likewise defended the role of the Anti-Terror Council (ATC) in implementing the measure.
Section 25 of the bill allows the 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.
“In comparison, the HSA of 2007, already allows unwarranted arrest but for only three days of detention without judicial authority and must result exclusively from court-ordered surveillance and financial investigation,” she explained.
“This makes the HSA unresponsive to the realities of actual terrorist operations, which is covert and fast-paced. The Anti-terrorism bill facilitates timely action to prevent terrorist events,” she added.
No better time
The lawmaker agreed that “the timing could be better” in the passage of the bill especially as the country continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.
“But on the flip side, know also that the pandemic will not deter terrorist plots. In fact, this is a vulnerable time for us,” she said, noting that the bill has been languishing in Congress since 2016.
She said that before the bill was approved in the lower chamber, it went through many hearings in the committee level, before it reached the plenary.
“Perhaps we can all agree that there is no better time than the present to protect our people from the threats of terrorism,” she said.
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