Nothing in anti-terrorism bill adds any new power to military, AFP says

Robie de Guzman   •   June 4, 2020   •   330

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Thursday welcomed the Congress’ move to immediately pass the controversial anti-terrorism bill amid growing opposition from various rights groups.

In a statement, AFP spokesperson Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo said the military is aware of the issues being raised on the proposed measure but based on reports, there is nothing in the bill that adds “any new power” to the military.

“…From what has been reported to me so far is that nothing in the Enrolled Bill to be sent to the President for his consideration adds any new power to the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” he said.

He also said that various issues on the proposal were “all considered in the thorough and deliberate discussions in Congress.”

“We reserve further comment until the proposed legislation is signed into law by the President and the IRRs (implementing rules and regulations) are out so we can study the law and the how’s of its implementation,” Arevalo added.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed the anti-terrorism bill on second reading with 173 affirmative votes, 31 negative and 29 abstentions.

The Senate passed its version of the bill on third and final reading in February.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier certified the bill as urgent, saying 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 anti-terrorism bill seeks to amend and improve the provisions of the Human Security Act of 2007.

Under the measure, 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.

The Department of National Defense has assured the public that activists and critics of the government will not be considered as terrorists following concerns that the measure will be used to target those who are expressing anti-government sentiments.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government also said that the bill is not anti-human rights as it, in fact, seeks to protect the rights of innocent people from terrorists.

“The Anti-Terrorism Bill aims to eradicate terrorism from our country. The people have nothing to fear from this bill; it is only the terrorists and their supporters who should fear it,” DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said, adding that this measure is a timely upgrade in the government’s arsenal against all forms of terrorism plaguing the Philippines for so many years.

Lacson blasts UN official for calling on Duterte not to sign Anti-Terror bill

Robie de Guzman   •   July 3, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson has criticized a United Nations official for urging President Rodrigo Duterte not to sign the controversial Anti-Terrorism Bill.

In a statement, Lacson expressed doubt that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet actually read the provisions of the measure which seeks to strengthen the country’s campaign against terrorism.

Bachelet, in a speech during the 44th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Tuesday, asked Duterte not to sign the bill, warning that its passage heightens concerns on the blurring of important distinctions between criticism, criminality and terrorism. She also warned of the measure’s potential “chilling effect” on humanitarian and human rights work.

Lacson questioned Bachelet’s statement since the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 was crafted based on the guidelines and standards set by the United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC) Resolution 1373.

“It was the UN that prodded the Philippines to strengthen its laws against terrorism. So, is this the United Nations going up against the United Nations?” the senator asked.

“The problem with the critics of the Anti-Terrorism Bill like the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights and the others is that they criticize without even reading the bill itself,” he added.

Lacson said that Bachelet and others opposing the measure are only “jumping into the wagon of criticisms” and have let themselves be influenced by the “avalanche of misinformation” about the bill.

“There are people, learned as they are, merely jumped into the wagon of criticisms without thoroughly reading and understanding the provisions under the proposed measure,” he said.

“All the misinterpretations and misconceptions triggered by an avalanche of misinformation and disinformation that dominated the mainstream and social media platforms have unduly influenced their thinking,” he added.

Congress passed the Anti-Terrorism Bill despite oppositions from various groups.

Some people have been campaigning for the junking of the bill, which they claim can be used to silence the critics of the Duterte government.

Lacson, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, has repeatedly stressed that the bill seeks to stop terrorism and protect people from terrorists.

He also underscored that there is a difference between the “designation” of terrorist individuals, groups, organizations/associations, and “proscription” of terrorist organizations.

“Designation as defined under the bill is a purely administrative process intended to trigger the issuance of a “freeze order” by the Anti-Money Laundering Council,” he said.

“Proscription, on the other hand, needs court intervention that requires due notice and hearing by the Court of Appeals,” he added.

Lacson also reiterated that the bill is a good measure, constitutional, and one that is swift and effective in fighting terrorism.

The senator previously said that he would join protests should authorities commit abuses in implementing measure.

Malacañang earlier said that the bill is now under final review before the president decides if he will veto or sign it into law.

Duterte to meet with AFP, PNP commanders following Jolo incident

Robie de Guzman   •   July 2, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is set to fly to Mindanao to meet with top officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the wake of the killing of four soldiers by policemen in Jolo, Sulu last Monday, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said Thursday.

Año, however, did not disclose the date and place of the president’s upcoming meeting with police and military commanders.

The Interior Secretary, who supervises the PNP, also said that Duterte may possibly talk to nine policemen involved in the shooting of soldiers.

“The president is going to the south to talk to our PNP and AFP commanders, sabi ko nga kung may time pa siya ay kakausapin niya yung mga suspek,” Año said.

Malacañang said the president was saddened by the incident between the police and military officers.

He has also ordered for the National Bureau of Investigation to expedite the release of its probe findings.

The Palace also denied that the incident is the result of the alleged state-sponsored extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration as claimed by former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.

“Hindi po natin kinukunsinte ang patayan kaya nga po masinsinang imbestigasyon ang ginagawa natin dito sa pagpatay sa 4 na sundalo sa hukbong sandatahan,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.

Año echoed Roque’s statement as he assured that those responsible for the Jolo incident will be held accountable.

“Extrajudicial killing is not the policy of this government and the Sulu incident, we will exact justice and make sure those responsible shall be accountable, umasa kayo diyan. Ako mismo ang personal na nag-follow up ng kaso,” he said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Anti-Terrorism bill now under final review – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   July 2, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The bill that seeks to toughen the country’s campaign against terrorism is now under final review, Malacañang said on Thursday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the proposed Anti-Terrorism bill has been forwarded to the Office of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea for final review before it reaches the table of the President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Ibig sabihin po, mayroon na pong memorandum na recommending a course of action to the president subject to final approval lang po siguro yan ni executive secretary at dadalhin na po sa lamesa ni president,” Roque explained.

The chief executive has a week to decide on whether to approve or veto the measure before it lapses into law on July 9.

Congress on June 9 transmitted the controversial bill to the Palace for Duterte’s signature despite opposition from various groups.

The anti-terrorism bill seeks to amend and improve the provisions of the Human Security Act of 2007.

Under the measure, 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.

Proponents of the bill has repeatedly assured the public that activists and critics of the government will not be considered as terrorists following concerns that the measure will be used to target those who are expressing anti-government sentiments. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

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