Bangsamoro execs seek seat in terror council after plea for Duterte veto rejected
COTABATO CITY–After President Rodrigo Duterte rejected their plea to veto the anti-terrorism bill by signing it into law, officials of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) are now asking Duterte to give them a seat in the Anti-Terrorism Council that the new law vests with powers to order arrests and searches.
“We fully respect the decision of President Duterte to sign the Anti Terrorism Act of 2020,” said Bangsamoro Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim a day after Duterte signed the controversial bill it earlier asked the President to veto.
“The BARMM is open to engage the national government on preparedness against this vicious phenomenon (terrorism),” Ebrahim said.
“This engagement can start with the Bangsamoro having representation in the Anti-Terrorism Council,” he said.
Duterte signed the controversial and highly unpopular bill on Friday (July 3), a day after the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) parliament sent a strong appeal to the President to veto it.
In the statement, Ebrahim said the BARMM, being a government itself, respected the President’s decision.
“Since it has been signed into law, we trust the President will ensure that the concerns and apprehension of the Bangsamoro people on some provisions of the law will not happen,” Ebrahim said.
Ebrahim had expressed concern over provisions of which he said could lead to a spike in cases of abuse and human rights violations on the Moro people.
“It is our fear that among the hardest hit once the Anti-Terrorism Bill passes into law would be the Bangsamoro,” Ebrahim said in his July 2 letter to the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) asking the BTA parliament to pass a resolution appealing to Duterte to veto the bill.
“Incidents of violations of human rights will be on the rise and the Bangsamoro people, easily labelled as terrorists would again be subject to discrimination and abuse,” he said.
“It is my moral duty to speak out to ensure the measures intended to address terrorism will not be used as a means to subvert the fundamental rights and freedom of individuals in general, and normalize abuse and discrimination against the Bangsamoro, in particular,” Ebrahim said.
The BTA eventually passed a resolution on Thursday (July 2) but Duterte signed the bill into law the next day.
Among the provisions that the BTA tagged as highly questionable included:
- Allowing warrantless arrests outside limitations allowed by the Rules of Court
- Allowing wiretapping without a court order
- Detaining suspects for up to 24 days without charges or commitment orders from courts
- Designation of persons or groups as terrorists by the Anti-Terrorism Council.
- Lack of remedy to question the council’s actions in courts
After Duterte signed the bill into law, Ebrahim said the Bangsamoro would support the new law once Bangsamoro gets a seat in the council.
“Rest assured that we will support the implementation of the law and commit to continue the conversation within the Bangsamoro, in our effort to provide the national government realistic context from the ground,” said the former chair of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the separatist group that inked a peace deal with the government and paved the way for the creation of BARMM.
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