GMA pushes okay of anti-terror bill
() - October 30, 2005 - 12:00am
President Arroyo reiterated her call to Congress yesterday to enact an anti-terrorism bill to further strengthen the country’s fight against the global menace. 

At the same time, Mrs. Arroyo vowed the government will increase its vigilance at all levels to sustain her administration’s current success in preventing terrorist attacks.

She also said the ongoing peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are "at a high point" which could bring about the "end of good and fruitful" negotiations.

The President said the government-MILF peace talks being held in Malaysia could be the only peace process in the world that incorporated anti-terrorist elements to bring about greater economic prosperity and stability in Mindanao and the whole Philippines.

Presidential Spokesman and Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye reiterated the President’s call for the enactment of an anti-terror bill.

Bunye said the decision of the Makati City regional trial court sentencing to death the Valentine’s Day bombers last Friday underscored the need for stronger legislation to address the threat of terrorism.

"We could bring more terrorists to justice if we had an anti-terrorism law in place," Bunye said.

"We therefore reiterate the President’s urgent call for congressional action on a most vital piece of legislation involving national and global security," he said. 

Bunye said an anti-terror law is an effective tool and weapon of the country against the global scourge.

"We believe, however, that we could capture terrorists earlier, even before they strike, if we had stronger legal weapons," Bunye stressed.

Officials believe an anti-terror law could serve as a strong deterrent against terrorism but the measure has been mothballed due to criticism that the measure would curtail civil rights.

Malacañang has been pushing for the passage of an anti-terror law since a bill for the purpose was first filed in the 1990s, during the term of former President Fidel Ramos.

Security officials said the present laws are not enough to discourage or preempt the global menace.

Militant and cause-oriented groups, however, have successfully blocked the passage of the anti-terror bill by claiming its provisions open the door to human rights violations.

The UN has called on the Philippines to enact an anti-terror bill that would consolidate all the international treaties and agreements to which the country is a signatory in the fight against terrorism.

The Philippines currently chairs the powerful UN Security council and the anti-terrorism task force of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

Ironically, the Philippines has yet to enact a law to toughen its fight against the global menace.

On Friday, Makati City RTC Branch 60 Judge Marical Marissa Guillen sentenced to death Indonesian national Rohmat Abdurrohim and Abu Sayyaf members Abu Khalil Trinidad and Gammal Baharan after finding them guilty of multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder in the Valentine’s Day bombing in the city this year that killed four people and wounded more than a hundred others.

Malacañang hailed the verdict as "another victory in our relentless fight against terrorism."

Officials noted the decision marked the first time that the government had been able to convict a member of the Indonesian-based Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terror network.

Abdurrohim admitted to being a member of the Indonesian terrorist group but pleaded not guilty to the Feb. 14 bombing, claiming he was in Mindanao at the time.

Abdurrohim admitted, however, that he had trained Baharan, Trinidad and another suspect named Gappal Bannah Asali, alias Boy Negro, who later turned state witness against them.

On the evening of Feb. 14, a bomb ripped through a bus in the southbound lane of EDSA and damaged two other vehicles.

The Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility for the bombing, as well as two other simultaneous bomb attacks in Davao City and General Santos City, reportedly in retaliation for the intensified military offensives against the rebels.

The MILF, which is currently holding peace talks with the government, promised to help in driving out the Abu Sayyaf from their midst as a sign of good faith.

Mrs. Arroyo said the ceasefire agreement with the MILF, which is already in its second year, resulted in an exchange of information and intelligence on terror cells in Mindanao and other countries as part of the agreement.She said the Muslim population in Mindanao and the government are equally in favor of an anti-terror bill to put in place all necessary measures against terrorists. Aurea Calica

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