Duterte certifies as urgent bill seeking to toughen PH anti-terror law

Robie de Guzman   •   June 1, 2020   •   369

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has certified as urgent a bill that seeks to strengthen the country’s anti-terrorism law.

In a letter to House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday, Duterte certified as urgent House Bill No. 6785, which seeks to amend and toughen the Human Security Act of 2007.

In his letter, Duterte said the immediate enactment of the measure is to “address the urgent need to strengthen the law on anti-terrorism in order to adequately and effectively contain the menace of terrorist acts for the preservation of national security and the promotion of general welfare.”

The House Bill reportedly adopted the Senate version which passed on third and final reading in February.

Under the bill, anyone who threatens to commit terrorism, propose any terroristic acts or incite others to commit terrorism shall mete out a penalty of 12 years of imprisonment.

It also introduces provisions penalizing those who will propose, incite, conspire, participate in the planning, training, preparation and facilitation of a terrorist act; as well as those who will provide material support to terrorists, and recruit members in a terrorist organization.

The measure also includes a new section on foreign terrorist fighters to cover Filipino nationals who commit terrorist offenses abroad.

It also aims to provide law enforcers the much-needed tools to protect the people from terrorism threat and, at the same time, safeguard the rights of those accused of the crime.

Once a bill is certified as urgent, the Senate and the House of Representatives can immediately pass a measure on second and third reading on the same day.

Rights advocates had earlier warned that the bill’s enactment would worsen the human rights situation in the country.

Duterte on reopening the economy: ‘We cannot afford to gamble’

Marje Pelayo   •   July 9, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The country is not yet ready to fully reopen its economy, according to President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Chief Executive said the government is doing the process gradually, otherwise the number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections would spike that could lead to a bigger problem.

He said he cannot follow the example of other countries because the Philippines does not have as much resources if the situation gets worse.

“Tayong pobre we cannot afford really a total epidemic or pandemonium. Mahirap tayo. Hindi tayo puwedeng sumugal (As a poor country, we cannot afford really a total epidemic or pandemonium. We are poor. We cannot afford to gamble),” the President said during his public address on Tuesday evening (July 7).

President Duterte cited situations in the United States and Brazil where despite being powerful and wealthy, are not spared from the impact of the pandemic.

“Although they opened their economy for money to come into the government coffers, there was a spike. They were having a problem of almost a relapse — in the totality of the number,” he added.

Meanwhile, the President expressed doubts that the country has entered the second wave of COVID-19 outbreak.

“Now we do not even know if the number of 34, 178 of active cases is still a part of the first wave or have we arrived at the second wave. I don’t think so. We are still grappling with the first wave,” he argued.

He urged Filipinos to obey strict health protocols and have more patience as the government works to combat the pandemic.

Mga kababayan ko, ako mismo gusto ko nang lumabas. Ayoko nang magpapigil. Kung gusto ko nga makipag-away na ako. Ang problema iyon ang gusto ko, pero ang gusto ko ay hindi makakabuti sa ating lahat,” he said.

(My fellow countrymen, I personally I want to go out. I don’t want to be barred from doing so. I am even ready to fight over this. The problem is, what I want is not good for everyone.)

“We have to be very circumspect in reopening the economy. Dahan-dahan lang (Let’s do it gradually), because if you open the entire Philippines and thousands upon thousands of new cases would happen, then we are in deep s***. Talagang mahirapan tayo (We will seriously struggle),” he said. MNP (with inputs from Rosalie Coz)

More petitions vs. Anti-Terrorism Act filed in SC

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 6, 2020

Four petitions were filed against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 at the Supreme Court on Monday (July 6).

A group led by law professor Atty. Howard Calleja and former Education Secretary Armin Luistro filed their petition to question the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

“We are not fighting this government. We are fighting the constitutionality of this law and this law should stand not only this constitution, not only this government but should stand the governments and constitutions of our children and of our children’s children. so we are fighting not only for today but for also the future of everybody, of every Filipino,” Calleja said.

Among the provisions questioned by Calleja and Luistro are the broad and vague definition of “terrorism”, the warrantless arrest, and the 24-day detention period upon suspicion of terrorism.

“The basic safeguard of our law is and of our rights is the constitution. if you violate the constitution then there are no safeguards,” Calleja said.

Lalong nagiging perpekto ang administrasyon kapag handa nilang pakinggan kahit yung mga batikos dahil dyan nagagawang mas mabuti. Kapag ang mga ang netizens natin ay nagtatanggal na ng mga posts nila, yan na ang epekto na ayaw natin mangyari,” said Luistro.

[The administration gets perfected when it is ready to hear out even the criticisms for they make things better. When netizens start to remove their posts, then, that will be the effect that we don’t want to happen.]

Atty. Mel Sta. Maria, Dean of the Far Eastern University Institute of Law, also filed a petition, stating that aside from what Calleja has pointed out, the anti-terrorism law will affect the teaching patterns in universities.

Kaya nga ang propesor, mga teacher o mga estudyante na magmumungkahi, mag-aaral ng halimbawa ng liberation theology, halimbawa na kalakip na dun ang pag-uusap sa arms struggle, e baka sabihin nila, proposal or inciting to terrorism na yan,” Sta. Maria said.

[That’s why professors, teachers, or even students will propose or study liberation theology, for example, and part of which is a discussion on arms struggle, it might be misconstrued as a proposal or inciting to terrorism already.]

Meanwhile, both Albay 1st district Representative Edcel Lagman and the Makabayan Bloc are requesting the Supreme Court to release a temporary restraining order (TRO) or Writ of Preliminary Injunction while the court has yet to decide on the filed petitions.

“All that a devious and underhanded law enforcer or prosecutor has to do is to conveniently invoke the killer proviso to stifle political dissent and peaceable assembly for redress of grievances,” Lagman said in a statement.

Lagman said the government must ensure that the rights of the common people for free speech will not be compromised by arrests that will be made against terrorists.

“What the government must pursue is the apprehension, prosecution and conviction, once warranted, of terrorists without ensnaring into contrived culpability persons who simply exercise free speech and peaceful assembly,” the lawmaker said.

Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Carlos Zarate expressed concern that the said law might be abused and target even ordinary individuals.

“This will be weaponized not only against members of the progressive organizations but even members of the political opposition, ordinary individuals, maging miyembro ng media (even members of the media),” he said.

On the other hand, Malacañang said it is leaving the decision to the Supreme Court.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque reiterated criticizing the government will never be considered a crime under the Constitution.

“Every law passed by congress enjoys the heavy presumption of constitutionality,” he said. —AAC (with reports from Vincent Arboleda)

Economic, infra clusters to hold pre-2020 SONA forum this week

Robie de Guzman   •   July 6, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Duterte government’s economic development and infrastructure Cabinet clusters are set to present the administration’s plans for recovery and resilience in the face of the coronavirus-induced headwinds this year at the first pre-State of the Nation Address (SONA) forum to be held this week.

The Department of Finance (DOF) said that the forum titled, “Regaining Momentum, Accelerating Recovery in a Post COVID-19 World,” will be held virtually on July 8.

Hosted by the Presidential Communications Operations Office and Office of the Cabinet Secretary, the forum will be streamed live on the Facebook pages of the Radio Television Malacañang, and other government agencies.

Finance Assistant Secretary Antonio Lambino II said this year’s pre-SONA forum will be different as the audience will be “purely virtual,” due to limitations on mass gathering amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We do hope that our citizens will be able to tune in as the country’s top decision makers discuss our path to a quick and strong recovery from this crisis,” he said.

In the forum, the DOF said that top economic and infrastructure officials are also expected to report on the state of the Philippine economy, as well as the government’s ongoing efforts to leverage on its strong fundamentals in the fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar will present performance updates and priority plans, respectively, on the economic and infrastructure fronts.

Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua will speak on the Philippine Economic Recovery Program.

“The audience can expect Secretary Dominguez to delve deeper into the challenges we’re facing right now, the accomplishments in the previous year that we can build on, and the legislative proposals that the economic team submitted for Congress to consider,” Lambino said.

Meanwhile, updates on the monetary, external, and financial sectors will be discussed by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin Diokno.

Pre-SONA forums are held annually to discuss in greater detail the achievements of the government in the previous year and the priorities of the Cabinet cluster heads in the run-up to the President’s SONA on July 27.

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