Robredo questions timing of anti-terror bill, urges lawmakers to focus on COVID-19

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 03 2020 05:20 PM

Vice President Leni Robredo speaks during a presscon at the Office of the President in Quezon City on January 6, 2020. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Vice President Leni Robredo on Wednesday questioned the timing of the anti-terror bill, which President Rodrigo Duterte certified as urgent, and urged lawmakers to instead focus their attention to immediate efforts against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Robredo said the pandemic is the worst crisis humanity has faced in generations and "all hands on deck" was needed to address the contagion.

"Itutok sana ng bawat institusyon ang buo at walang-kahating atensyon sa pagtugon sa mga pinakaagaran at pinakamahahalagang pangangailangan," she said.

(Agencies should focus their whole attention in addressing the public's most immediate and pressing needs.)

"Ang masasabi natin ukol sa Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020: Wala ni isa sa mga nabanggit kong pangangailangan ang matutugunan ng batas na ito," she added, noting that public transportation in areas under general community quarantine are lacking and government has yet to achieve its goal of 30,000 daily coronavirus tests.

(What I can say about the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020: The bill will not address any of the concerns I mentioned.)

Malacañang said the country has the capacity to run 30,000 tests daily but actual tests ran by government remain around 10,000 tests per day.

Robredo urged lawmakers to carefully craft the anti-terror bill as she pointed out that only one paragraph was allotted under programs to counter violent extremism. 

"Sa kabilang banda, maraming probisyon ang nakatutok sa pagpapalawak ng kung sino ang puwedeng bansagang terorista, at sa pagbabawas ng mga checks and balances laban sa mga wrongful arrest," she said.

(On the other hand, many provisions broaden the definition of terrorists and provides fewer checks and balances against wrongful arrest.)

"Huwag madaliin ang pagpanday ng batas, lalo na ang mga batas na direktang nakakaapekto sa buhay at paraan ng pamumuhay ng napakarami sa atin."

(Don't rush crafting the law, especially ones that directly affect the lives of many of us.)

The proposed measure causes concern that it may be used to suppress the Filipinos' right to free speech, Robredo said as she emphasized that "violence and terrorism has no place in society."

"Especially in the wrong hands—in the hands of people who have no qualms about using disinformation, inventing evidence, or finding the smallest of pretexts to silence its critics—napakamapanganib ng kapangyarihang ito (this power is dangerous)," she said.

"Sikapin sana nating maisalamin nito ang saloobin at adhikain ng taumbayan. Hinihimok natin ang ating mga mambabatas: Magpamalas sana sila ng ibayong pakikinig at pagninilay sa pagpanday ng (Anti-) Terror Bill."

(Let's endeavor to make this bill reflect the people's sentiment and advocacy. We urge lawmakers to listen and think deeply about crafting the Anti-Terror Bill.)

President Rodrigo Duterte has certified as urgent the bill that would authorize the government to wiretap suspects, arrest them without warrants and hold them without charge for up to 24 days, among other provisions. 

The House of Representatives late Tuesday approved on second reading the anti-terror bill which repeals the "outdated" Human Security Act of 2007. The Senate approved the same measure in February. 

Senate President Vicente Sotto III defended the bill from critics, saying it has enough safeguards to ensure that state forces would not abuse the powers granted under the measure to go after government critics.