Guevarra confident Duterte will wait for DOJ review of anti-terrorism bill
Protesters have gathered at the University of the Philippine Diliman campus on June 12 to call for the veto of the anti-terrorism bill.
Philstar.com/Deejae Dumlao

Guevarra confident Duterte will wait for DOJ review of anti-terrorism bill

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - June 16, 2020 - 3:53pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Palace said that President Rodrigo Duterte is inclined to sign into law the controversial anti-terrorism bill, but Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra expressed confidence that the chief executive would wait for his department’s input before acting on the proposed measure.

Early on Tuesday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in an interview with CNN Philippines that Duterte is “taking a final look at it but I think he is inclined to sign it.”

It was Duterte who certified the bill urgent and told the House of Representatives to fast-track passage. Bills certified urgent may be passed on second reading, and on third and final reading on the same day.

The justice department’s legal opinion has yet to be transmitted to the Palace as of Tuesday.

Guevarra told reporters that he is confident that Duterte “will wait for and consider not only the comments of DOJ but also those of other government agencies whose comments were requested by the office of the executive secretary.”

Presidential chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo said last Friday that his office is recommending that Duterte sign the controversial proposed bill into law, despite a mounting call  from lawyers’ groups and the law academe for a veto.

READ: Duterte's chief legal counsel urges signing of anti-terror bill amid strong opposition

Guevarra added that DOJ’s review on the constitutionality of the proposed anti-terrorism bill is still on track and will be submitted to the Palace on Wednesday.

“As scheduled, we finished our brainstorming session [on Monday], examining and inter-relating with one another each and every section of the enrolled anti-terrorism bill,” he said.

“We are drafting our comments today and will send our internal communication to the Office of the President tomorrow,” Guevarra also said.

The justice chief could not assure that their legal opinion would be accessible to the public or to members of the press, as he explained the document is classified as high confidential.

Public disclosure of the documents would be up to the Office of the Executive Secretary and not the DOJ, Guevarra said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano transmitted the enrolled, or final, copy of the bill to Malacañang early June 9.

The president has three options: Sign the bill he marked as urgent into law, not act on it for 30 days and allow it to lapse into law, or veto it—this is where the DOJ review would be crucial.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, proponent of the measure at the Senate, said last week that DOJ “can still interfere by advising the president to veto the bill altogether.”

Guevarra, Duterte’s senior deputy executive secretary and former President’s Benigno Aquino III’s ex-deputy executive secretary for legal affairs, assured the public that the promise of a review is “not a mere perfunctory statement.”

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