Palace defends Duterte push for Anti-Terrorism Law amendments

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 02 2020 02:22 PM

Members of progressive groups hold a protest calling for the release of imprisoned activists in front of the Manila Police headquarters, Dec. 10, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA -- Malacañang on Tuesday defended President Rodrigo Duterte's call for lawmakers to amend the country's anti-terrorism law, a congressional effort that drew the ire of rights monitors.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, a human rights lawyer, said no "draconian" provisions will be introduced to the Human Security Act of 2007.

"Wala naman pong draconian na provision diyan. Lahat po ng provision diyan binase din natin sa batas ng iba't-ibang bansa na mas epektibo po ang kanilang pagtrato sa sa mga terorista," he said.

(There are no draconian provisions there. All of the provisions were based from the laws of other countries that have more effective ways of dealing with terrorists.)

The bill was patterned after anti-terrorism laws of the United Kingdom, United States, and Australia, Roque said.

"Wag po natin kalimutan hindi po tayo istranghero sa terorismo," he added.

(Let's not forget that we are no strangers to terrorism.)

Duterte on Monday called for the urgent passage of the bill to "address the urgent need to strengthen the law on anti-terrorism in order to inadequately and effectively contain the menace of terrorist acts for the preservation of national security and the promotion of general welfare."

Critics said the proposed amendments would violate basic rights.

Netizens have used the hashtag #JunkTerrorBill on social media to express their disagreement, criticizing the call for its swift passage despite the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Roque said the bill had long been with Congress and the country's existing anti-terrorism law was less strict compared to the rest of the world.

The Human Security Act of 2007 had been criticized for being useless because of provisions penalizing law enforcers with P500,000 in damages per day of detention of any person acquitted of terrorism charges.

Critics and human rights advocates expressed concern over the proposed amendment, which will remove the said provision but sets the number of days a suspect can be detained following warrantless arrest to 14 days, which can be extended by another 10 days.

If the bill becomes law, any person accused of threatening to commit terrorism faces 12 years in prison. The same prison term will be imposed on those who will propose any terrorist acts or incite others to commit terrorism.