'Parang junta': Anti-terror bill to give broader powers to Anti-Terror Council, says lawmaker

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 04 2020 10:32 AM

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MANILA - A lawmaker on Thursday likened the Anti-Terror Council to a junta as the anti-terror bill gives the council the power to order the arrest and detention of people it identifies as terrorists.

“Dito binibigyan mo ng kapangyarihan hindi pa ang korte kung ‘di ang isang Anti-Terrorism Council na binigyan mo ng judicial power na mag-utos na hulihin ang isang tao. Para silang isang junta na may kapangyarihan na mag-utos na hulihin,” Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate told ANC's Headstart. 

Zarate said Section 29 of the anti-terror bill is "patently unconstitutional” as this would give the council the authority to detain a person more than the prescribed period under the Constitution. He said people can be arrested and detained for as long as 14 days without a warrant. 

“Unconstitutional dahil ang nagbibigay ng kapangyarihan na ito ay isang council—itong Anti-Terrorism Council—na hindi naman isang korte,” he said. 

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. 

“Hindi lang ito worrisome, talagang condemnable ito dahil kahit na sa definition nila na 'yung acts that are considered terrorism or terrorist acts ay napakabroad,” he said.

He added, “Dito, kahit ano 'yun intention nung isang tao ay binibigyan mo ngayon ng diskresyon 'yung police officer or military to determine what is the intention of that person, and by doing so, mas talagang naging broad 'yung kapangyarihan ng law enforcement agencies.” 

He cited as example the almost 30,000 people arrested for violating the Bayanihan Act from March 17 to April 17. He said law enforcement agencies had their own interpretation of the law, which resulted to mass arrest.

“How much of this law na ang isang council, ang Anti-Terrorism Council at kaniyang implementors ay binigyan mo ng napaka-broad ng much leeway to interpret dahil kahit na ang intensiyon ng isang tao ay puwede niyang i-determine on his own at sabihin niyan mangangalap tayo ng ebidensiya within 14 days.”

“Can you imagine that? Nahuli ka na, nasa custody ka na nila for 14 days and that can be extended for another 10 days kung gugustuhin nila,” he said.

Lawyers and human rights activists in the country are also protesting the bill which was certified as "urgent" by President Rodrigo Duterte, warning of draconian and arbitrary provisions that could be abused to target his detractors.