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2 more groups reject anti-terrorism bill

MANILA, Philippines — Two more groups — an organization of outstanding women and a group of lawyers — have joined calls for the rejection of the anti-terror bill recently passed by Congress.

The latest to voice their opposition to the bill were the Towns Foundation and the Concerned Lawyers for Civil Liberties (CLCL).

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Towns Foundation, an organization of Filipino women awarded for outstanding service to the nation, said what the country needed was not a new law, but rather, better law enforcement.

In a statement, the group, comprised of lawyers, journalists, doctors, educators and others, called on members of the House of Representatives to withdraw their “yes” votes from the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

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“As it stands, we believe that the proposed bill poses an immediate threat to our people’s rights and freedoms enshrined in our Constitution,” the group said.

Towns Foundation reiterated that without necessary safeguards, the proposed measure would likely lead to the further deterioration of human rights standards.

According to the foundation, if the anti-terror bill passes without proper reforms in law enforcement, it will only guarantee more abuse of power against the rights of Filipinos.

‘Institute reforms’

“While we recognize the need to address the threat of terrorism, there is the equal imperative to institute reforms and professionalize the police and the military. Let them be the true guardians of the people,” the group said.

The group also slammed how the proposed measure removes safeguards found in the Human Security Act of 2007, which it seeks to repeal.

“We must remind our lawmakers that political expression and dissent are not terrorist activities. Activism is not terrorism. Our democracy guarantees the right of empowered citizens to assert our rights and demand accountability from the government, to right its perceived wrongs,” the group said.

The CLCL on Saturday called on Sen. Panfilo Lacson to rectify his statement that the proposed Anti-Terror Council (ATC) under the antiterror bill would not have the power to order the arrest and detention for up to 24 days of suspected terrorists.

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“Sen. Lacson is dead wrong in his asserting that the ATC under the new terror bill does not have judicial authority to issue warrants of arrest, and questioning the Integrated Bar of the Philippines [which] said otherwise,” the CLCL said in a statement.

Warrantless arrest

The bill’s Section 29, entitled, “Detention without judicial warrant of arrest” permits law enforcers to deliver the suspected terrorist to a judicial authority within 14 days, subject to a 10-day extension, after he was arrested, detained or taken into custody. The arrest, detention or taking into custody of the suspect must be authorized in writing by the ATC.

The CLCL, however, pointed out that the ATC “is not a court and therefore cannot ‘authorize’ an arrest.”

The lawyers’ group compared the ATC’s written authorization to the arrest and seizure order and presidential commitment order utilized during martial law to make warrantless arrests, adding, “[T]he impact is the same—the suspect is arrested and imprisoned without charges.”

It added that the bill grants ATC judicial power and therefore violates the due process clause of the Constitution.

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TAGS: Anti-Terrorism Bill, Concerned Lawyers for Civil Liberties, Towns Foundation
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