MANILA (UPDATE)- The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading the controversial House Bill 6875, which seeks to amend the Philippines' current anti-terrorism laws.
The bill was passed during the lower chamber's session on Wednesday, with 173 House members voting yes, 31 voting no, and 29 abstentions.
If it becomes a law, the government will be authorized to wiretap suspects, arrest them without warrants and hold them without charge for 14 days, among other provisions.
For years, the Human Security Act has been criticized because of provisions penalizing law enforcers with the payment of P500,000 in damages per day for detention of any person acquitted of terrorism charges.
Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon, who co-sponsored the bill, earlier said this is why it has to be amended.
“Parang natali ang kamay ng law enforcement and at the same time hindi tayo makapagsampa ng kaso gamit ito sa higpit ng batas. Kaya kinailangan iyong adjustment para may angkop na batas na magagamit," Biazon said in a House session Tuesday.
(The hands of law enforcement were tied and at the same time we can't file a case because of this law. So the adjustment is needed so we can have a law we can use.)
Lawyers and human rights activists in the country, however, are protesting the bill, certified "urgent" by President Rodrigo Duterte, warning of draconian and arbitrary provisions that could be abused to target his detractors.
Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said the bill is unconstitutional as it violates the Bill of Rights, and it can be weaponized against members of the opposition since the definition of terrorism in the measure is vague and broad.
"Malaki ang panganib sa pinalawak na depinisyon ng terorismo na kahit sino, kahit ordinaryong tao na nag-post ng kaniyang pagtingin sa social media ay maaaring ituring ng gobyerno na terorista kung nanaisin nito. Huwag nang banggitin pa ang magiging turing ng administrasyon sa mga aktibista, na sa kasalukuyang hindi pa pasado ang panukala ay kinukulong na at pinapatay," Zarate said.
(The broad definition of terrorism poses grave danger to anyone, even to ordinary persons who post their opinion on social media can be considered a terrorist if the government so pleases. Let's not even get into this administration's treatment of activists, who have been jailed and murdered when the bill wasn't even passed yet.)
Critics have called out the proposed legislation, which they said violate basic rights. Last Friday, the hashtag #JunkTerrorBill was the country's' top trending topic on Twitter.
--With a report from Zandro Ochona, ABS-CBN News