âTerror law can be repealed if abusedâ
Senate President Vicente Sotto maintained that Republic Act 11479 is constitutional and has safeguards that make it tamer compared to similar statutes in other countries.
AFP/Aileen Dimatatac
‘Terror law can be repealed if abused’
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - July 21, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Congress can repeal the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act if authorities are found to be abusing its provisions, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said yesterday, even as he asked critics to give time for the government to implement it.

Sotto maintained that Republic Act 11479 is constitutional and has safeguards that make it tamer compared to similar statutes in other countries.

“It is only a law, it is not the Constitution. Therefore, what I’m saying as far as the anti-terrorism law is concerned, when we see that it’s being abused, and we mistrust the government in implementing and executing this, repeal the law,” Sotto, principal author of RA 11479, told CNN Philippines.

“But now, we’re still starting the implementation, we’re trying to catch up with the rest of the world, because the Philippines is the only one among our neighbors that is part of the top 10 as far as coddling terrorists is concerned,” he said.

He said under the Human Security Act of 2007, which was repealed by the new law, the Philippine government managed to convict only one suspected terrorist.

Sotto said he understands the mistrust in government but appealed to skeptics to give the law a chance.

He reiterated the law underwent rigorous scrutiny when it was still being drafted at the Senate where constitutionalists and other legal experts were consulted.

Sotto expressed confidence the Supreme Court will uphold the constitutionality of RA 11479.

“I think the main cause of this dissent is because of misinformation. There are a number of issues that I have seen on social media that are not in the law. Most of what they are saying is not in the law. Probably those who started the ball rolling against the anti-terrorism law (are) either against the government, or they are afraid it might be abused, but there are proper safeguards. As a matter of fact, the law is flooded with safeguards,” he said.

He said anti-terrorism laws in other countries are “harsher” than what is set to be implemented in the Philippines.

‘Fears unfounded’

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana maintained yesterday that there is no reason to fear the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 and that those questioning it are doing so based on unfounded claims.

Critics have filed at least 10 separate petitions challenging the new law and Lorenzana said it is now up to the Supreme Court to determine whether or not accusations of constitutional violations are true.

“The law was passed and petitions were filed against it. We maintain that the fears of these petitioners are unfounded,” Lorenzana stressed.

“But we leave the final determine to the Supreme Court if it is constitutional or not,” he said of the law that officially took effect on July 18, 2020.

He however noted that while the law is now in place, enforcing it would require the rules being drafted by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

“Meantime, we will wait for the IRR (Implementing rules and regulations) before we can implement it,” Lorenzana, who earlier asked the public to give the Anti-Terrorism Law a chance, explained.

Lorenzana said the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is “a much-needed measure to clothe law enforcement agencies with the necessary power to contain and eradicate terrorists who don’t play by any rules and who hide behind our laws to pursue their evil deeds.”

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. said law-abiding citizens have nothing to be afraid of with the Anti-Terrorism law.

“Only those who are in the business of committing terrorist acts as contained in the law should be afraid. Law-abiding citizens should not,” he told reporters.

As to those challenging the new law before the Supreme Court, he said critics have all the right to legally question the same.

Lawyer Romulo Macalintal said the Anti-Terrorism law, despite being already effective, must wait for its IRR before all provisions can be implemented.

Macalintal cited Section 54 of the law which states that “the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) and the Department of Justice, with the active participation of police and military institution “shall promulgate the rules and regulations for the effective implementation of this Act within ninety days after its effectivity.”

He said groups questioning the constitutionality of the new law could raise before the Supreme Court the issue of whether or not the law could be implemented without an IRR as another argument to convince the high court to issue a temporary restraining order to prevent its enforcement pending resolution of their petitions.

Macalintal said without the IRR there could be no “effective implementation” of the law.

“For there are provisions of the law which are not self-executing that cannot, by their nature, be implemented without the IRR,” he said. –  Michael Punongbayan, Helen Flores

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