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Solon on Anti-Terror Bill: ‘None deserves that power’

A party-list representative that voted “no” to House Bill No. 6875 or the Anti-Terrorism Bill said no one deserves the power that comes with it.

“Sa ating Sandatahang Lakas: You don’t deserve that kind of power. No one does.” Magsasaka Party-list Rep. Argel Cabatbat said.

In a statement posted on his Facebook account after the bill was approved on its third and final reading in the House of Representatives on June 3, he said farmers are often red-tagged and among the first victims of violence and war yet get the least protection.

“In the interest of our farmers, and the Filipino people, our sector cannot support this measure,” he said.

With the sole discretion given to arresting officers or to the Anti-Terror Council (ATC), which are adjuncts of the Executive, he challenged “to use that power with justice and prudence and to remove the fears of the Filipino people that they will be abused by this law.”

The bill proposes that top Cabinet officials through the Anti-Terror Council can act like courts; thus, order the arrest of people suspected to be terrorists. As well as allow law enforcement agents to do warrantless arrests and detentions, as long as the ATC authorizes it.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman also voted “no” to the bill, and complained about not being allowed to interpellate on the bill’s draconian measures that can be abused due to the vague and nebulous provisions whose implementation rests solely on the said authority.

“The fundamental law sets the standard of three days even in the severest of circumstances when the writ of habeas corpus is suspended. The 24-day maximum provided for in House Bill No. 6875 is eight times longer than the standard set by the Constitution,” Lagman said.

He added that “It is no excuse that other countries prescribe longer periods of detention because we should not follow these other countries who have less democratic history and do not have similar provisions in their constitutions.”

He also said that authorizing wiretapping of suspected terrorists for a maximum period of 90 days and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLAC) to pry into the bank accounts of suspected terrorist groups and persons without a court order by freezing such accounts for 20 days, which period can be extended to six months by the Court of Appeals are repugnant.

“Ninety days is inordinately long to authorize police and military authorities to eavesdrop against privacy when exemption to the Anti-Wiretapping Law must be sparingly made, even if the same is not warranted in the first place,” Lagman said.

Lagman added that besides encouragement and legalization of red-tagging of groups or persons, the penalties imposed are utterly severe and disproportionate to the lighter offenses provided for in the proposed new Anti-Terror Act.

Moreover, he said safeguards for the protection of human rights and civil liberties enshrined in the Human Security Act of 2007 have been deleted or diluted too.

According to Lagman, it is no consolation that Section 4 of the bill provides that “terrorism as defined in this Section shall not include advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action, and other similar exercises of civil and political rights” because this safeguard is mere lip service since it is eroded by the subsequent proviso which reads: “which are not intended to cause death or serious physical harm to a person, to endanger a person’s life, or to create a serious risk to public safety.”

“This dangerous colatilla can always be used by arresting and prosecuting officers to undermine the supposed safeguard,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA), condemned the congressmen who voted in favor of the Anti-Terrorism Bill, which the fishers’ group said was a treason to the Filipino people.

“These congressmen who voted “yes” should be ashamed of themselves for acting like the Palace’s rubber-stamp. Amid the strong objection not only from militant groups but also from broad sectors and personalities, they still pushed the approval of the bill,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA national chairperson and former Anakpawis Party-list solon said.

“They will be remembered in history as the legislators who betrayed and put the people’s lives and rights in peril,” Hicap said.

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