Senate OKs proposed new anti-terror bill on second reading

Robie de Guzman   •   February 20, 2020   •   350

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate on Wednesday approved on second reading a bill that seeks to strengthen the country’s fight against terrorism.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, who authored and sponsored the bill, said Senate Bill 1083 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 seeks to provide “a clear, concise, balanced and rational anti-terrorism law that adheres to regional and international standards.”

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

“With (Senate Bill 1083), we can be sure that whether the terroristic act is committed here or abroad, the perpetrator shall be within the arms of the law once he or she comes to our country,” said Lacson, who chairs the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security.

He also said that the new anti-terror bill seeks to repeal the existing Human Security Act of 2007, which “did virtually nothing to deter participation in the plotting of terroristic acts.”

The measure 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.

“As a responsible member of the community of nations, we are duty-bound to improve our laws to ensure that we can implement UN Security Council Resolutions, meet international standards, and fulfill state obligations with the United Nations,” Lacson said.

The measure proposes the establishment of Philippine jurisdiction over Filipino nationals who may join and fight with terrorist organizations outside the Philippines.

It would also ensure that foreign terrorists do not use the country as a transit point, a safe haven to plan and train new recruits for terrorist attacks in other countries.

“We send a strong message to them: You are not welcome here. If you dare set foot in our country, you will be dealt with the full power of our laws,” Lacson said, adding that the penalty of life imprisonment without the benefit of parole will be meted out to them.

The bill also removed the provision on payment of P500,000 damages per day of detention of any person acquitted of terrorism charges.

But the number of days a suspected person can be detained without a warrant of arrest is 14 calendar days, extendable by 10 days.

Despite being a tougher anti-terror law, Lacson assured the measure has enough safeguards against possible abuses by arresting officers and that amendments were crafted to ensure that the rights and wellbeing of the accused individuals or suspected terrorists inside jail facilities are protected.

The bill also introduced a new provision, designating certain Regional Trial Courts (RTCs) as Anti-Terror Courts, to ensure the speedy disposition of cases.

The use of videoconferencing for the accused and witnesses to remotely appear and testify will also be allowed under the measure.

The bill also provides for the police or the military to conduct 60-day surveillance on suspected terrorists, which may be lengthened to another non-extendable period of 30 days, provided that they secure a judicial authorization from the Court of Appeals (CA).

Any law enforcement or military personnel found to have violated the rights of the accused persons shall be penalized with imprisonment of 10 years, the senator said.

To allay concerns of possible excesses by the authorities, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) shall be notified in case of detention of a suspected terrorist.

The measure also mandates the CHR to give the highest priority to the investigation and prosecution of violations of civil and political rights of persons and shall have the concurrent jurisdiction to prosecute public officials, law enforcers and other persons who may have violated the civil and political rights of suspects and detained persons.

Senate OKs stiffer anti-terrorism bill on final reading

Robie de Guzman   •   February 27, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate has approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to strengthen the country’s fight against terrorism.

Voting 19-2, the Senate on Wednesday passed the Senate Bill 1083 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 which aims to provide “strong legal backbone to support the country’s criminal justice response to terrorism.”

The measure also seeks 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.

“We need a strong legal structure that deals with terrorism to exact accountability, liability and responsibility. Those who have committed, are about to commit, or are supporting those who commit terroristic acts should be prosecuted and penalized accordingly,” Senator Panfilo Lacson, who authored and sponsored the bill, said in a statement.

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

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.

Under the bill, the penalty of 12 years of imprisonment will be meted by any person who:

  • Threaten to commit terrorism
  • Propose any terroristic acts or incite others to commit terrorism
  • Shall voluntarily and knowingly join any organization, association or group of persons knowing that such is a terrorist organization
  • Found liable as accessory in the commission of terrorism.

The bill also removed the provision on payment of P500,000 damages per day of detention of any person acquitted of terrorism charges. But the number of days a suspected person can be detained without a warrant of arrest is 14 calendar days, extendible by 10 days.

A new provision, designating certain Regional Trial Courts (RTCs) as Anti-Terror Courts, was also introduced to ensure the speedy disposition of cases.

The amendments also provide for the police or the military to conduct a 60-day surveillance on suspected terrorists, which may be lengthened to another non-extendable period of 30 days, provided that they secure a judicial authorization from the Court of Appeals (CA).

Any law enforcement or military personnel found to have violated the rights of the accused persons shall be penalized with imprisonment of 10 years, the senator said.

The measure also mandates the Commission on Human Rights to give the highest priority to the investigation and prosecution of violations of civil and political rights of persons, and shall have the concurrent jurisdiction to prosecute public officials, law enforcers and other persons who may have violated the civil and political rights of suspects and detained persons.

Lacson earlier said that the new anti-terror bill seeks to repeal the existing Human Security Act of 2007, which “did virtually nothing to deter participation in the plotting of terroristic acts.”

But Senators Risa Hontiveros and Francis Pangilinan both voted against the bill.

In explaining their “no” vote, Hontiveros and Pangilinan said some provisions of the bill impinge on rights and liberty and are vague and encompassing, making it open to abuse.

Both lawmakers raised concerns over key provisions, particularly the prolonged detention and authority given to the police and military to conduct a 60-day surveillance on suspected terrorists.

PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty now reduced to mere paper treaty after VFA termination – Lacson

Robie de Guzman   •   February 11, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the Philippines and the United States “will now be reduced to a mere paper treaty” with the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), Senator Panfilo Lacson said Tuesday.

“Like it or not, bad or good, nothing much can be done now but do a 180-day countdown upon receipt of the notice by Washington,” Lacson said in a statement.

“What is certain is that the 1951 PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty will now be reduced to a mere paper treaty as far as the US is concerned,” he added.

Lacson made the statement after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) signed and sent a notice formally scrapping the VFA to the United States.

The MDT was signed by Washington and Manila in 1951 where both parties agreed to support each other in case of an armed attack.

The VFA, on the other hand, came into force in 1999. It outlines the guidelines about the treatment of their troops when visiting the US or the Philippines.

It includes provisions on visa and passport policies for US troops and the American government’s right to retain jurisdiction over its personnel, among others.

The deal may be terminated by either of the two countries by writing to the other party signifying their intent to end the agreement. Its expiration will come 180 days from the date of notification.

“Having said that, there’s no more intelligence information sharing in our fight against domestic and foreign terrorist acts, no more US military aid and financing that accounts for a good 52% of what they extend to the whole Asia-Pacific region,” Lacson said.

“That may not include other intangible economic benefits and security from external threats in the West Philippine Sea, as well as humanitarian aid in times of disasters, epidemics and other crises,” he added.

Lacson and other senators earlier filed a resolution asking President Rodrigo Duterte to reconsider his plan to scrap the VFA while the Senate reviews it.

Duterte in January threatened to terminate the deal following the US’ move to cancel the visa of his ally, former National Police chief and now Senator Ronald Dela Rosa.

Lacson releases copy of Castro’s lobby letter seeking P258 million

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 27, 2019

Senator Panfilo Lacson has released a copy of Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro’s alleged lobby letter seeking financial assistance worth P258 million.

In a statement published on Thursday (September 26), Lacson belied Castro’s statement that the said letter was ‘fictional.’

“In a letter dated Sept. 19, 2019, Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro lobbied with Sen. Lacson for financial assistance to construct a municipal building for Dumalag town, costing P258 million,” the statement reads.

Lacson also posted on Twitter that Castro and his co-conspirators in the House had allegedly illegally inserted P95B in the 2019 national budget which was vetoed by President Rodrigo Duterte.

On Thursday Castro said the letter was not related to pork barrel.

“It was not a lobby letter. It’s a letter-request just like any other letters I sent to other senators,” he said in a statement. “Lobbying is different. My letter-request shows my resolve to help my constituents. It’s not pork barrel.”—AAC

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