Two committees from the House of Representatives have approved the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, a bill that claims to seek the prevention, prohibition and penalization of any act that falls under its definition of terrorism.
This means anyone who can be considered a threat to the state by proposing, inciting, conspiring or participating in acts of terrorism can be incriminated—and the power to do so will be provided to law enforcers.
The bill first passed the Senate on Feb. 26, and on May 29, it received the approval of the House committees on Public Order and Safety as well as National Defense and Security, which are headed by Masbate Rep. Narciso Bravo Jr. and Iloilo Rep. Raul Tupas, respectively.
Fast-tracking its passage, the version approved by the House is also similar to that of the Senate’s “to avoid the necessity to convene a bicameral conference committee,” according to Bravo.
It also included the designation of certain regional trial courts as anti-terror courts to pose a speedy disposition of cases as a new provision. Additionally, courts may also have the accused and witnesses to appear and testify through video conference.
The 60-day surveillance period for suspected terrorists may also be lengthened to another non-extendable period of 30 days, as long as the Court of Appeals gives judicial authorization. As an answer to concerns of abuse by those in authority, the Commission on Human Rights shall be notified when a suspected terrorist is detained. However, this isn’t deemed as enough by netizens, who expressed their denunciation of the bill through #JunkTerrorBill immediately after the news broke out.
#JunkTerrorBill This provides a 60 to 90 day-wire tapping period, and warrantless arrest, detention up to 30 days of suspected terrorists. It has no safeguards for the protection of human rights, redress of grievances. This can be weaponized to silence critics, suppress dissent.
— Sarah Elago (@sarahelago) May 29, 2020
With the passing of the Anti-Terror Bill in the House of Representatives earlier today, it won’t be helped that there will be a spike in cases similar to what happened to Dr Bobby dela Paz. #JunkTerrorBill#ActivistNotTerrorist pic.twitter.com/75gstbuqi7
— Philippine Medical Students’ Association (@PMSANational) May 29, 2020
As shared by Scout, several partylists have also voiced their disapproval and cited the looming dangers that the bill poses.
“Sa napakalawak at mababaw na depenisyon nito ng “terrorismo”, itinuturing nang krimen ang LAHAT ng pulitikal na hakbang ng mamamayan—lalung-lalo na ang mga protesta at welga. Maaaring ikulong nang hanggang 30 na araw nang walang kaso ang sinumang kursunada ng rehimen, tiktikan ang social media at iba pang komunikasyon nang walang utos mula sa korte—lahat ng tao, kahit ang mga inosente, maaaring maging biktima,” said Anakbayan in their post.
“The proposed new definition of terrorism is vague and encompassing, making it open to abuse in that the simplest mobilization or common crimes can be framed by errant law enforcers as acts of terrorism,” said Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan in explaining his vote against the bill in Feb. 26.
The senator also said, “The prolonged detention is an impingement of rights and liberty. Why 14 days? If security officials and law enforcers are doing their job, why will it take them long to file a case? Or, is the practice of arrest and detain now, produce or invent evidence later still prevalent, as it was when opposition leader Jovy Salonga was arrested, detained, and charged in 1981?”
Once the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is approved by both the Senate and the House, it will be forwarded to the President. If he passes the bill, it will officially become law. Should the President veto the proposal, it returns to the house of Congress where it originated, for reconsideration. Should both houses of Congress vote 2/3 in favor of the bill, it will be passed into law.
Header photo from Inquirer.net
Get more stories like this by subscribing to our weekly newsletter here.
Writer: YANN MAGCAMIT