Saturday, June 13, 2020

Anti-terror bill endorsed for signing amid rallies

MANILA, Philippines — The Anti-Terror Bill of 2020 will pass the constitutional test once it is brought to the Supreme Court, chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo said yesterday.

Panelo also recommended to President Duterte to sign the measure, transmitted by the Senate and the House of Representatives to the Office of the President last week.

“After a careful and thoughtful review of the Anti-Terrorism Bill, this representation has recommended the approval and the signing of the proposed legislative measure to the President,” Panelo said.
“Our office has studied each and every provision, which should not be read in isolation but in connection with each other so as to render the document in its entirety, as well as its directives, effective in combatting terrorism, and found the same passing the constitutional test,” he said.

He maintained the bill contains sufficient safeguards against abuses and that it would only be used against those who sow and create a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic through lawless actions.

“The proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 will serve as a powerful weapon against participants of these lawless actions, the threat of which is extremely imminent during our current times,” he said.

In a statement, Panelo also assured the public that the government is following the guidelines set by the United Nation’s Security Council for fighting terrorism and violent extremism.

“Further, by strengthening policies against terrorism and its actors, our country will effectively be complying with our obligations to the community of nations by countering and eliminating terroristic acts through proper legislation,” he said.

Panelo was referring to the Philippines’ obligation under the UN Security Council in 2017, through its Resolution No. 2396, stipulating that “member states have the primary responsibility in countering terrorist acts and violent extremism conducive to terrorism.”

“Our lawmakers have guaranteed – and we agree – that provisions found in the draft legislative policy are not just compliant but are supportive as well to our international covenants,” he said.

Congress passed the enhanced Anti-Terror Law against the backdrop of the months-long battle to retake Marawi City from Islamic State-linked terrorists.
“There is certainly an urgent need to strengthen our law on anti-terrorism in order to adequately and effectively contain the menace of terroristic acts for the preservation of national security and the promotion of general welfare,” Panelo said.

Contrary to criticisms, Panelo said a person’s political and civil rights remain protected under the new anti-terror measure.

He reiterated that a Filipino citizen’s right to peacefully air grievances and seek redress against the government is not curtailed under the new law.

“We reiterate that this legislation is intended solely against terrorists (and definitely not against citizens who peacefully dissent against – and criticize – the government’s policies),” Panelo said.

“Fears raised by certain sectors are more imagined than real. We therefore ask them to study its provisions carefully and discuss the same with legal experts so they can understand fully the spirit of the bill,” Panelo added.

In his Independence Day message posted on his Facebook account, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said addressing terrorism involves striking a balance between freedom and public safety.

“In a world where the threat of terrorism is a constant reality, the struggle to find that thin line between liberty and public safety is one of the most challenging decisions governments have to make. But it has to be made. Fear, indecision and inaction – borne of systemic mistrust – are a bigger threat to our people,” Cayetano stressed.

“Freedom always comes at a price. People reckon this differently based on their particular circumstance. But one thing is clear in my mind, the price for freedom – no matter how steep – is always worth paying,” the Speaker pointed out.

“It is right to be vigilant to abuses, but it is wrong to see a conspiracy behind every action of government. This is not the path to freedom, but to anarchy and lawlessness. We act on emotions. Emotions much of the time are more powerful [than] reason,” he said. Edu Punay