Anti-terror bill will allow ‘humane‘ considerations in freezing of assets – Lacson
MANILA, Philippines — While the anti-terrorism bill is seen by its supporters to give more teeth to policies countering terrorist financing, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the measure would still provide for “humane” considerations in terms of freezing assets by allowing partial withdrawal of money for humanitarian needs.
In an online media forum on Wednesday, Lacson said the Marawi siege in 2017 exposed the weakness of existing laws against the financing of terrorists.
“The anti-terrorist financing act lacks teeth because it is limited to proscription. Now we added several mechanisms on how to go about thwarting or preventing terrorist financing. We included it in the bill,” Lacson said, speaking partly in Filipino.
“The reason why the FATF [Financial Action Task Force] tagged us as partially compliant was because of the weak laws or policies in countering terrorist financing. In Marawi, how many billions entered the country to finance the Marawi siege? A lot. This was not checked due to the weakness of the law,” he added.
Section 36 of the bill states that “[u]pon the issuance by the court of a preliminary order of proscription or in case of designation under Section 25 of this Act, the AMLC, either upon its own initiative or request of the ATC, is hereby authorized to issue an ex parte order to freeze without delay: (a) any property or funds that are in any way related to financing of terrorism as defined and penalized under Republic Act No. 10168 or any violation of Sections 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 11 or 12 of this Act; and (b) property or funds of any person or persons in relation to whom there is probable cause to believe that such person or persons are committing or attempting or conspiring to commit, or participating in or facilitating the financing of the aforementioned sections of this Act.”
But Lacson, the principal author of the Senate bill, said humanitarian aspects would still be considered under the measure.
“Someone who had an account frozen can appeal to the CA [Court of Appeals] to question why the account was frozen. And this would not be totally frozen. We will provide humane treatment,” he said. “Even if the account is frozen, a suspected terrorist or organization can still partially withdraw for humanitarian needs. For example, if a family member is sick, this will be allowed under this measure.”
The anti-terrorism bill, which is now only awaiting President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature, has been met with widespread opposition from various groups, raising fears that the measure could spur human rights violations and suppress dissent.
But Lacson, in an earlier television interview, said the crafting of the bill in the Senate was anchored on the Bill of Rights.
“We are guided by the Bill of Rights. No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech and expression, peaceably assembled, to air their grievances against the government,” he had said.
‘Most lenient’ detention period
During Wednesday’s media forum, Lacson reiterated that the measure would provide for the “most lenient” detention period compared to laws in other countries.
The seeks to amend and repeal the Human Security Act of 2007 (HSA) and punish those who will propose, incite, conspire, participate in the planning, training, preparation, and facilitation of a terrorist act; including those who will provide material support to terrorists, and recruit members in a terrorist organization.
Under the bill, a suspected terrorist can be detained without a warrant of arrest for 14 calendar days, extendible by 10 days.
This reglementary period of detention, according to the senator, is the shortest compared to other countries like Thailand, which prescribes up to 30 days; Malaysia, up to two years; Singapore, up to 720 days extendible to an indefinite period of detention without formal charges; and Indonesia, up to 120 additional days.
“We are the most lenient, most accommodating, most generous on what we adopted. During the hearings, the law enforcement agencies, represented by their personnel, were asking for 30 days, which I did not accede to,” he added.
Lacson also reiterated that the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC), which would be created under the bill, would not be authorized to order the arrest of suspected terrorists.
“We did not give ATC more power than what it should have. That is clear. They do not have judicial or quasi-judicial authority. There was a big misinterpretation because of so much disinformation going on,” he said.
Lacson then renewed his call to those opposing the bill to read the measure first before making assumptions about it.
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