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Fact check: Lacson's defense of anti-terrorism law safeguard is 'misleading'

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Fact check: Lacson's defense of anti-terrorism law safeguard is 'misleading'
This handout photo shows presidential aspirant Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, who attended the Commission on Elections presidential debate at Sofitel on April 3, 2022.
Lacson-Sotto campaign / Viber

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, a candidate for president, claimed in a Commission on Elections-hosted debate on Sunday that the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is one of the laws with the most safeguards against abuse that critics and petitioners against the law have raised in court and on the streets.

CLAIM: In the Pilipinas Debates 2022 on April 3, Lacson said that when a person is arrested for a supposed violation of the anti-terrorism law, authorities must report that arrest "immediately," within 24 hours, to judicial authorities, Commission on Human Rights and Anti-Terrorism Council.

RATING: This is misleading.

FACTS:

What he said

Asked about the importance of human rights in the Philippines, Lacson took the opportunity to defend the law he sponsored and also faced 37 legal challenges at the Supreme Court.

"In relation to human rights, yung anti-terror law — ito lamang yung batas na napakaraming safeguards at isa sa mga napaka-importanteng safeguard, kapag nanghuli ang pulis sa violation ng ATA agad-agad, within 24 hours, kailangan mag-report sa pinakamalapit na huwes at sa CHR at sa ATC,” he said.

(In relation to human rights, the anti-terrorism law, this is the only law with this many safeguards and one of the most important safeguards, when police arrest for violation of the ATA, immediately, within 24 hours, they have to report to the nearest judge, to the CHR and the Anti-Terrorism Council.)

Lacson acknowledged that the law is "unpopular" but said it is a good measure where human rights are protected. "Wala pong ganyang batas (There is no law lake it)," he added.

What he left out

Section 29 of the law, one of the most contested provisions of the ATA, provides that law enforcers and military personnel shall notify in writing "immediately after taking custody of a suspect" the nearest judge of several facts, including time, date and manner of arrest; location of the detained subject; and condition of the suspect.

It added that the ATC and the CHR shall be furnished with the written notice to the judge.

Nowhere in the law, which has been challenged for its vague provisions, said that this has to be done within 24 hours.

Rule 9.3 of the Implementing Rules and Regulation of the law however provides that the notification "shall mean a period not exceeding forty-eight hours from the time of apprehension or arrest of the suspected person."

It must also be noted that Section 18 of the Human Security Act of 2007, which the ATA repealed, had an additional safeguard that directs authorities: "before detaining the person suspected of the crime of terrorism, present him or her before any judge at the latter’s residence or office nearest where the place where the arrest took place at any time of the day or night."

Essential context

Lacson, who co-authored and sponsored the law, in "The Jessica Soho interviews" in late January touted the ATA that has several safeguards.

But the law has become one of the most challenged measures before the Supreme Court.

Petitioners have pointed out that the Implementing Rules and Regulations cannot change or add to the law. An IRR is an executive branch document that lays down how agencies are to implement laws.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines said the rules "cannot cure any defect or change the law because the IRR must conform with the law."

The IBP also questioned the amount of time given to security personnel, saying that authorities can immediately bring the detained person to court.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers also said the 48-hour period given to security personnel before reporting the arrest is open to "abuses, torture, coercion, manufacture or destruction of evidence."

The Supreme Court left the feared ATA mostly intact after it resolved the 37 pleas that challenged the law’s constitutionality, but petitioners have filed a motion for reconsideration on the ruling.

Why is this important?

Lacson and his running-mate Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III place primacy on governance marked by discipline and order.

Petitioners and media watchdog Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility also stressed that the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is one of the crucial elections that have to be discussed during the campaign season.

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This story is part of the Philippine Fact-check Incubator, an Internews initiative to build the fact-checking capacity of news organizations in the Philippines and encourage participation in global fact-checking efforts.

Philstar.com is also a founding partner of Tsek.ph, a collaborative fact-checking project for the 2022 Philippines’ elections. It is an initiative of academe, civil society groups and media to counter disinformation and provide the public with verified information.

Want to know more about our fact-checking initiative? Check our FAQs here.

Have a claim you want fact-checked? Reach out to us at [email protected]

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