AFP seeks tougher counterterrorism law
“The real danger of terrorism is here. May banta na naman ng possible terrorist attack in Northern Luzon, although this is being verified,” AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said yesterday at the weekly Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum.
Boy Santos
AFP seeks tougher counterterrorism law
Robertzon Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - August 15, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Citing rising terror threats, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said there is now greater urgency to amend to the Human Security Act for security forces to better deal with the problem without having to worry about legal repercussions.

“The real danger of terrorism is here. May banta na naman ng possible terrorist attack in Northern Luzon, although this is being verified,” AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said yesterday at the weekly Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum.

Arevalo said that they particularly want to remove the P500,000 fine per day on security officers who arrest a suspected terrorist who is later acquitted, and to extend the three-day custodial investigation period.

He explained that the hefty fine would only cause serious hesitation on the part of security officers in carrying out arrests of suspected terrorists. He also emphasized that the current three-day period given to investigators to gather evidence against suspected terrorist is not enough.

He also said the government should also implement a provision in the law that prohibits people from glorifying any acts of terrorism especially in social media. Authorities, he said, should also be able to freeze immediately supposed bank accounts of suspected terrorists.

Arevalo said the bombings at the Jolo Cathedral, at a military camp in Indanan in Sulu; and in Lamitan, Basilan were acts of terrorism that need to be addressed immediately.

He also said the AFP has monitored the entry of seven terrorist groups in the Philippines early this year and that there are foreign terrorist groups training potential suicide bombers in Northern Luzon.

Asked if there is a threat of terrorism in Metro Manila, Arevalo said there is “no specific threat,” but that is no excuse to “relax and lower our guards.”

He also said that the AFP supports the suggestion of Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año that the long abolished law criminalizing subversion be restored.

Best option

Año, meanwhile, said reviving the anti-subversion law or Republic Act 1700 is still the best option to end the communist insurgency.

“It’s about time that we put an end to this conflict that has been bringing our nation down and has killed some 100,000 policemen, soldiers, government officials and innocent civilians,” he said in a statement.

He emphasized a revived anti-subversion law should only cover the “communists who are actively working to overthrow the government through armed struggle and does not, in any way, cover legitimate dissent, political opposition, or similar groups.”

He also wanted all communist fronts declared as illegal following reports of continuous recruitment of 500 to 1,000 youths annually in schools where about 50 to 100 end up as rebels.

“All organizations providing support to the CPP-NPA-NDF must also be declared illegal and mere membership to these organizations should be a criminal act,” Año said.

In retrospect, Año said the repeal of the anti-subversion law in 1992 was a “mistake” as it allowed the communist movement to gain momentum especially with the support of their front organizations.

He noted that since the repeal of the law was repealed, the communists have been rejecting the government’s call for genuine peace.

“If we revive the anti-subversion law, we will be able to dismantle the urban mass movement in the cities that fuels the armed struggle in the mountains,” Año said.

He said current laws such as the Human Security Act are not enough since these only penalize the individual acts of communist rebels.

Meanwhile, a senior military official said at least 60 suspected foreign terrorists may have entered the country and are linking up with local terror groups.

The official also said they are still clueless on the whereabouts of three Filipino jihadists – two females and a male – who were monitored to have joined the Islamic State.

“No reports of them returning back to the Philippines,” the military official said.

Earlier, Zamboanga City-based Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) commander Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana confirmed that seven foreign ISIS terrorists are now in the country.

Most of these foreign jihadists are operating alongside local bandit groups like the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu and several factions of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Central Mindanao, Lanao provinces and mainland Zamboanga peninsula. – With Jaime Laude, Emmanuel Tupas, Jose Rodel Clapano

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