Senate OKs stiffer anti-terrorism bill on final reading

Robie de Guzman   •   February 27, 2020   •   725

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.

Lacson urges public not to believe disinformation drive, says Anti-Terror bill adheres to PH Constitution

Robie de Guzman   •   June 5, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson has urged the public not to believe the “massive disinformation campaign” being waged by critics of the Anti-Terrorism Bill as he stressed that the measure aims to secure and protect the public from indiscriminate terrorist acts.

“Terrorism knows no timing nor borders. Some of our country’s policy-makers, especially our people, should know better than just criticizing and believing the massive disinformation campaign against a measure that can secure and protect us as well as our families and loved ones from terrorist acts perpetrated in a manner so sudden, least expected and indiscriminate – as in anytime, probably even today, tomorrow or next week,” Lacson said in a statement Thursday.

Lacson, the main champion of Senate Bill 1083 or the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, said the measure adheres to the Philippine Constitution and he has been mindful of the Bill of Rights when he held public hearings and argued for the bill on the Senate floor.

“When I conducted the public hearings and sponsored the bill on the Senate floor last year up to February when it was approved on third and final reading, I was always mindful of the Bill of Rights enshrined in the 1987 Constitution,” he said.

Lacson, who chairs the Senate committee on national defense, said he incorporated in the bill most of the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism laws of other strong democracies like Australia and the United States, “further guided by the standards set by the United Nations.”

“With the help of many of my colleagues who interpellated and proposed their individual amendments, including all the members of the minority bloc, I was more than accommodating to accept their amendments as long as we would not end up with another dead-letter law such as the Human Security Act of 2007, which has so far resulted in just one conviction after more than a decade of its implementation and just one proscribed terrorist organization such as the Abu Sayyaf Group,” he said.

Among the bill’s provisions that critics are opposing to is the 14-day reglementary period of detention without judicial warrant, saying this may be abused by the authorities.

But Lacson pointed out that the measure adopted the “shortest time” of 14 days compared to other countries in region like Thailand with up to 30-day reglementary period of detention; Malaysia with up to two years; Singapore at 720 days extendible to an indefinite period of detention without formal charges; and Indonesia, up to 120 additional days.

The senator also assured that safeguards have been put in place to ensure the rights of those detained.

Senate Bill 1083 seeks to repeal the existing Human Security Act of 2007 and to provide a “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.

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 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.

The bill has been approved by the Senate in February, and adopted by the House of Representatives.

It is now up for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature, despite criticisms and fears of more human rights abuses once it is enacted into law.

“To the critics, I dare say: I hope the day will not come when you or any of your loved ones will be at the receiving end of a terrorist attack, so much so that it will be too late for you to regret convincing the Filipino people to junk this landmark legislation,” Lacson said.

Senate OKs proposed new anti-terror bill on second reading

Robie de Guzman   •   February 20, 2020

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.

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