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Lacson hits âdisinformationâ on anti-terror bill
Senator Panfilo Lacson, an author and sponsor of the bill, said if critics would read the measure carefully, they would find that its provisions remain protective of human rights as enshrined in the Constitution, and less draconian compared with those of other countries in the region.
Geremy Pintolo, file

Lacson hits ‘disinformation’ on anti-terror bill

Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - June 8, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Panfilo Lacson yesterday hit what he said were attempts at disinformation on the anti-terrorism bill that he stressed has enough safeguards against abuses and more tools to use against extremists.

Lacson, an author and sponsor of the bill, said if critics would read the measure carefully, they would find that its provisions remain protective of human rights as enshrined in the Constitution, and less draconian compared with those of other countries in the region.

“We followed the Bill of Rights, Article III, Section 4 of the Constitution, and not only that – we defined terrorism, qualified that its intent and purpose is clear. It also stated in the definition that advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, mass action or other similar exercises of civil and political rights are not included,” he told radio station dzBB.

The senator lamented that students, millennials as well as persons with influence had a “head start” in criticizing the bill.

“Truth vs. disinformation should be an easy competition,” he said. “The irony here is that we criticize and criticize, and one day, we find out that we need this (bill),” recalling the past uproar against the national ID system.

On the provision of detention of terror suspects for 14 days without having charges immediately filed, Lacson said among the safeguards is that the arresting officers will have to immediately inform in writing the concerned court, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), and the would-be created Anti-Terrorism Council.

He added that the 14-day detention, which can be extended for 10 days, is comparable to that of Australia.

Terror suspects in Indonesia can be detained for as long as 120 days, Singapore as long as 730 days, while Malaysia has a detention period of 59 days to two years, according to the senator.

He said 36 hours of detention under the present Human Security Act (HSA) was not enough based on the experience of the country’s law enforcement agencies.

He cited cases where terror suspects are freed because authorities could not complete the evidence required in the courts, only to see on television the same perpetrators killing hostages.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III had earlier said terrorism as defined in the bill adheres to the definition of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

“Most of the apprehensions being mentioned are absent in the bill; some are, but there are safeguards. Most of all, terrorism is defined in the bill as defined by the UN. There is no other definition in the bill,” Sotto said. “The UN definition does not include advocacy, protests, dissent, stoppage of work and other exercise of civil rights.”

Senate Bill 1083 seeks to repeal and replace HSA 2007, the current anti-terrorism law that police and military officials said no longer responds to the evolving nature of security threats against the country.

The Senate passed the bill on third and final reading on Feb. 26 and the House of Representatives adopted it through the public order and defense committees on May 29.

The bill, according to Sotto, could be on President Duterte’s desk as early as Tuesday.

Ready to defend

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. is ready to defend the anti-terrorism law before the UNSC, saying the controversial proposed measure is “so far so good” filled with safeguards for rights and liberties.

“This is my duty as Secretary of Foreign Affairs who will defend before UN Security Council our Anti-Terrorism Law passed pursuant to UNSC antiterrorism resolution. Won’t take anyone’s word for anything to do with my duty as foreign secretary. Never presume regularity. Tribe – HLS,” Locsin said in a tweet on his official Twitter account yesterday.

He added that he was reviewing the anti-terror bill that was “authored and sponsored by one I deeply trust – Sen. Lacson – to see if there is, as in the bill crafted and sponsored in my time, something to be feared for our liberty & safety and enough safeguards to protect them.”

“En summa total, it is replete with safeguards for our rights and liberties while providing punitive measures against those who violate their duty to protect us from their own terrorism. Out of this we shall develop police/military forces the envy of the democratic world,” the foreign affairs chief said.

“So far, so good, one or two exceptionable items, including lousy English usage. No such expression as ‘any terrorism.’ P*******a! Doesn’t the Legislature have newspaper copyeditors? Hire them. They’re a dying breed,” he added.

The Department of Justice said it will start its own review of the bill, some provisions of which have drawn flak over constitutionality issues.

“As long as it’s Justice Secretary (Menardo) Guevarra, we are safe. The most respected mind in law today. I can take my time reviewing my copy knowing what I miss he will not. I have to defend this abroad. And I don’t like my country portrayed as a banana republic on the evidence of bad laws,” Locsin said.

The UN Human Rights Office on Thursday said the Philippines has a longstanding and robust tradition of human rights advocacy and activism, but the vilification of dissent and attacks against perceived critics are being “increasingly institutionalized and normalized in ways that will be very difficult to reverse.”

Police officers are being readied for training to implement the controversial anti-terrorism bill once enacted into law, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said yesterday, assuring the public that there was no need to be alarmed over the proposed law.

PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said that aside from training cops, the PNP has involved its Human Rights Affairs Office (HRAO) in its information campaign to raise awareness among police officers.

“The PNP is ready in case the President approves the proposed law and the PNP will also conduct an information campaign and training for all policemen to raise awareness on its provisions so no abuses would occur. We will prepare the whole institution,” Banac said in an interview aired on dzBB.

The PNP saw no need for the public to be afraid of human rights abuses, he added, as the law strikes a “necessary” balance between civil rights and order, stressing that the country needs a stronger law against terrorism.

“We saw terrorism thrive in the past years, and we saw what current laws lack to address this … and the PNP is supporting this proposal because we want to protect our country against extremists and terrorists,” Banac said.

Public furor ensued over the fast-tracking of the proposed law, with critics sounding an alarm on possible human rights abuses and protests erupting over the “draconian” proposal.

With police powers of surveillance, arrest and detention reinforced, human rights groups have also expressed fear of possible escalation of abuses against critics of the government.

The expanded definition of terrorism was also feared to be abused by law enforcers, who have been in hot water for alleged human rights abuses committed during the enforcement of quarantine protocols and in their anti-illegal drugs operations.

“Law abiding citizens” have nothing to fear, according to Banac who also allayed the public’s apprehension on surveillance, saying such would only be done on suspected terrorists. Pia Lee-Brago, Neil Jayson Servallos, Alexis Romero

PANFILO LACSON
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