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Salceda withdraws ‘yes’ vote to controversial Anti-Terror Bill

LEGAZPI CITY --- Albay 2nd district Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda has withdrawn his support on the controversial Anti-Terrorism Bill on Friday (June 5) evening, two days after he voted in favor of the bill.

In a letter sent to lawyer Jose Luis G. Montales, secretary-general of the House of Representatives, Salceda said he was withdrawing his “yes” vote until some of the bill’s provisions are refined.

He said that without a bicameral conference, there will be no opportunity for House members to help address certain provisions of House Bill (HB) No. 6875 that would amend the Human Security Act of 2007, the current Anti-Terrorism Law, to expand the definition of acts of terrorism.

“This representation hopes that the pertinent provisions can be refined. While police power is vested in the state, this needs to be implemented within the context of the social contract, where the people reign supreme,” the Salceda said.

In his letter to Montales, Salceda said he voted “yes” with reservations as the bill would help law enforcement in prosecuting suspects.

“I write to you regarding HB No. 6875, otherwise known as the “Anti-Terrorism Law,” which the House passed on third reading on June 3, 2020. While, on balance, I see the general wisdom of strengthening our national security protocols, I reiterate in writing the reservations that I have already expressed to some of my colleagues,” he said.

“This representation voted “yes” with reservations because while the bill would help law enforcement in prosecuting suspects, some definitions must be tightened to ensure the protection of the rights of the people. Provisions inconsistent with human rights and the 1987 Constitution must also be amended,” Salceda stated in his letter.

He cited four provisions under HB No. 6875 that need to be looked into.

First, HB No. 6875 defines the acts of terrorism, ranging from endangering a person’s life to mere planning to committing such an act, where the accused could face a sentence equivalent to life imprisonment without parole.

The provisions on “threat” under Section 5, “Preparing” under Section 6, and “recruitment to and membership in a terrorist organization” under Section 10 are vague and could give rise to various interpretations.

Second, some provisions must be calibrated as these may affect the right to privacy of individuals, as enunciated by the Supreme Court in the case of Ople vs. Torres, G.R. No. 127685 July 23, 1998. Section 3 (i) thereof includes the tracking of individuals, and not just members of organizations declared as terrorist.

Section 16 of the measure also expands the list of persons who may be subjected to surveillance or wiretapping by including persons who are merely “suspected” of committing any of the crimes penalized under the proposed law.

Third, the creation of the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) composed of Cabinet officials to do functions otherwise reserved for courts, i.e. ordering the arrest of people suspected to be terrorists, would be inconsistent with the principle of separation of powers and would be a violation of the Constitutional powers of the judiciary.

Further, since the ATC will be composed of the implementers, its members could not possibly be objective in its decision.

Fourth, under Section 29 of the measure, a person suspected of violating the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act may be detained for 14 days, extendible for another 10 days. Article 7, Section 18 of the Constitution, provides that even when the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is suspended, the maximum period that a person can be detained without charges is three days.

“I thus request the Secretary-General to withdraw the “yes” vote that I was recorded to have made, and register an abstention,” Salceda said.

The controversial Anti-Terrorism Bill passed by the House of Representatives was contested by people from all walks of life. Majority of the Bicolano lawmakers voted in favor of the controversial bill except Albay 1st district Rep. Edcel Lagman.

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