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âAnti-terror council should be composed of judgesâ
House Deputy Speaker Mujiv Hataman – who represents strife-torn Basilan – made the proposal as he voiced his opposition to the anti-terror bill that he said was more intended to silence critics of the administration than fight terror.
The STAR/Roel Pareño

‘Anti-terror council should be composed of judges’

Roel Pareño, Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - June 5, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Members of the judiciary and not unelected officials should comprise the anti-terrorism council, the establishment of which is stipulated under the newly approved bill on detecting and fighting terrorism.

House Deputy Speaker Mujiv Hataman – who represents strife-torn Basilan – made the proposal as he voiced his opposition to the anti-terror bill that he said was more intended to silence critics of the administration than fight terror.

“This (proposed) law is not meant to combat terrorism. It is meant to give the state the power to tag whomever they please as a terrorist,” Hataman said.

“The law has bestowed upon an anti-terrorism council the power to pinpoint terrorist. Such power should be given to the courts and not to political appointees,” he said in Filipino. “Will it not heighten fear that this law may be used to silence political enemies of the one in power?”

The lawmaker, a human rights activist, explained in his vote against the measure that while he is also for the immediate arrest and prosecution and punishment of terrorists, the government seems more concerned about tagging its critics.

Hataman cited as basis provisions in the bill that provide for the warrantless arrest of a suspect and his continued detention for 24 days without any charges, and the removal of the P500,000 fine for any wrongful arrest done by law enforcement agents.

“In this sense, the bill sends a clear message to enforcers: Arrest anyone you want; anyway you will not pay a cent supposing you make a mistake by committing mistaken identity or wrongful detention, or worse – even planting of evidence,” he pointed out.

Hataman also disclosed lawmakers passed the measure without consultation with concerned sectors.

“In the deliberations on the bill, one thing became very clear to me: They gave more importance to expanding the definition of who could be considered terrorist and not to finding ways to pin down the real terrorist,” he said.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said the measure is open to abuse, as it tends to blur the distinction between terroristic activities and ordinary crimes already punishable by existing laws.

“The CHR is against terrorism,” spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said. “We recognize its effects have implications on our rights and freedoms – both individually and as a collective community,” she said.

“With the vague and overly broad definition, authorities could want only tag exercise of rights as terrorist expressions under this Act by even defining the crime of ‘inciting to terrorism’ – referring to ‘means of speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, banners or other representations,’” she said.

“And at the moment groups and individuals are tagged as ‘terrorists,’ CHR is also wary of the provision allowing detention of suspects without judicial warrant,” she added.

De Guia also expressed concern that the prolonged detention under the bill may result in cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or torture, not just through acts of interrogation but by the conditions experienced by the suspect.

“It is more concerning that, given the proposed extended period of detention, the said Act further absolves authorities from any ‘criminal liability for the delay in the delivery of detained persons to the proper judicial authorities’ despite the constitutional guarantee of presumption of innocence and due process,” she added. Evelyn Macairan, Mayen Jaymalin, Elizabeth Marcelo, Pia Lee Brago, Janvic Mateo

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