MANILA, Philippines — Several senators on Friday lauded President Rodrigo Duterte for signing the Anti-Terrorism Act despite “the pressure coming from different directions” against the passage of the measure.
“Much credit goes to (President Duterte). With all the pressure coming from different directions against the signing of the Anti Terrorism Bill into law, at the end of the day, it is his strong political will that mattered most,” Senator Panfilo Lacson said in a message to reporters.
“I cannot imagine this measure being signed under another administration. If only for this, I take my hat off to the president,” he added.
The senator, one of the principal authors of the bill in the Senate, then assured that he would “exert extra effort in guarding against possible abuse in its implementation, notwithstanding all the safeguards incorporated in this landmark legislation.”
For Senate President Vicente Sotto III, he said he was “glad the President has sifted through the rubble and saw the importance of the law.”
“It’s full of safeguards but strong against terrorists. Unlike the old law, it was subject to abuse by the terrorists,” he said in a separate message.
According to Sotto, the new law brings the Philippines “at par with many countries in the region in capacity-building measures against terrorists.”
“A democratic republic like ours is not a lame and anemic form of government due to many liberties and due processes every step of the way. When its very survival is threatened, it can raise its arms in self-defense, protect the people from ruthless ideologies and stop unrepentant agitators from sowing mayhem and disorder,” he said.
“This new law against terrorism is the answer. The government’s hands are no longer tied. Law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear,” he added.
Meanwhile, administration Senator Francis Tolentino said the passage of the anti-terror bill into law was “very timely and historic as it is a measure needed by our nation.”
“It just goes to show that a stable peace and order climate should go hand (in hand) with economic rejuvenation post-COVID-19,” he added.
No less than the United Nation’s top human rights official had asked Duterte to “refrain” from signing the controversial measure, saying its passage intensifies concerns on the “blurring of important distinctions between criticism, criminality, and terrorism.”
The newly-signed law amends and repeals 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.
Before it was enacted into law, the measure has been met with widespread opposition from various groups, which raised fears that the measure could spur human rights violations and suppress dissent.
Its authors in Congress, particularly Lacson, have repeatedly defended the proposed law, saying the measure contained enough safeguards against abuse.