Duterte signs anti-terror measure into law

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star
Duterte signs anti-terror measure into law
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the President signed the bill in its entirety.
Robinson Ninal Jr / Presidential Photo

MANILA, Philippines — Amid renewed calls by human rights groups and various organizations for a presidential veto of the Anti-Terror Bill, President Duterte signed yesterday the controversial measure, six days before it would have automatically lapsed into law.

One of the most contentious provisions of Republic Act No. 11479 allows the detention of terror suspects up to 24 days without the filing of charges.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the President signed the bill in its entirety.

“(The) bill was approved en toto,” Medialdea said.

In a statement last night, Roque said the President signed the measure after thoroughly reviewing the provisions with his legal team.

He “took time to study this piece of legislation, weighing the concerns of different stakeholders,” the Palace spokesman said.

“Terrorism, as we often said, strikes any time and anywhere. It is a crime against the people and humanity; thus, the fight against terrorism requires a comprehensive approach to contain the terrorist threat,” Roque said.

The bill allows the police to conduct warrantless arrests and keep suspected terrorists detained for 14 days, extendable by another 10 days, to allow authorities to build a case and to stop any planned criminal activities.

The new measure in effect repeals the 2007 Human Security Act.

Roque said the enactment of the law “demonstrates our serious commitment to stamp out terrorism, which has long plagued the country and has caused unimaginable grief and horror to many of our people.”

“Together, let us defeat terrorism and make our communities safe and secure under the rule of law,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Roque also expressed concern over the reported escape of two female suicide bombers who were being tailed by the four soldiers killed by policemen in Sulu last Monday.

“It’s sad that aside from the loss of lives of four soldiers, including one major, the terrorists they were pursuing managed to escape,” Roque said in Filipino. “Now, the plans of those terrorists to detonate bombs could materialize anytime as they had escaped pursuing soldiers.”

Senate President Vicente Sotto III welcomed the enactment of the law, which he said was “full of safeguards but strong against terrorists.”

“I am glad the President has sifted through the rubble and saw the importance of the law,” Sotto told reporters.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who chairs the committee on national defense and security and principal sponsor of the law, thanked Duterte for signing the measure despite a strong campaign to have it vetoed.

“With all the pressure coming from different directions against the signing of the Anti-Terrorism Bill into law, at the end of the day, it is his strong political will that mattered most,” Lacson said.

“I cannot imagine this measure being signed under another administration. If only for this, I take my hat off to the President,” he said.

He vowed to exert extra effort in guarding against possible abuse in its implementation, notwithstanding all the safeguards incorporated in the landmark legislation.

Sen. Francis Tolentino described the enactment as historic as the law is urgently needed by the country.

“It just goes to show that a stable peace and order climate should go hand in hand with economic rejuvenation post COVID-19. We should all support this measure,” Tolentino said.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan, meanwhile, said he was not surprised by the signing.

“From Day One, this administration unleashed draconian and authoritarian measures as a showcase of its brand of leadership,” Pangilinan said.

“These draconian measures, however, have been exposed as nothing more than a show of senseless, mindless violence as means to sow fear amongst the people. From the murderous drug war, to the longest martial law in Mindanao, to the longest lockdown in the world and now to the anti-terror law,” he said.

He said the drug war has not nailed big-time drug lords and illegal drugs still flow after four years, while martial law in Mindanao has miserably failed to address the reconstruction of Marawi City.

Schools, organizations vs terror bill

Earlier yesterday, a joint statement by over 250 organizations – including the country’s top schools – urged President Duterte to veto the anti-terrorism bill.

“We are one with its proponents that we need the proper legal provisions to fight this scourge,” the statement read.

“However, more thorough discussion is needed to get broad support for a law as important as this, and to strengthen the unity the country needs to fight the bigger health and economic crisis we are all facing,” it said.

Signatories include the Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference for Human Development; Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals; Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations; Filipina CEO Circle; Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines; Institute for Solidarity in Asia Inc.; Institute of Corporate Directors; Investment House Association of the Philippines; Judicial Reform Initiative; Makati Business Club; Management Association of the Philippines; People Management Association of the Philippines; Philippine Business for Education and Shareholders’ Association of the Philippines Inc.

Recently, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., National Intelligence Coordinating Agency director general Alex Monteagudo and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año assured the public at a forum that the measure carried enough safeguards to deter abuse by law enforcers.

“The Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) will ensure respect for human rights and adherence to the rule of law as the fundamental basis in the fight against terrorism,” Esperon said.

“It will also promote capacity building program so that we will be better strengthened and the people will be made aware of what is happening, they will be informed about what we are trying to do and we will be connected with the international community,” he said.

Unlike the Human Security Act, Esperon said the current anti-terrorism law has a provision that allows the state to tackle foreign fighters more effectively.

“These are the people who are establishing Milayat – province of ISIS in Southeast Asia, they chose Mindanao to be the site, particularly Marawi, but they did not succeed because of our quick action and very excellent execution of our actions there,” he said.

Foreign terrorists who come to the country, Esperon said, are usually in the background but “they are actually in the lead.”   Louella Desiderio, Paolo Romero



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