MANILA — Removing the hefty fine in 2007's anti-terrorism law, widely seen as crucial deterrent against abuse, will embolden authorities to go after terrorists, Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III said Wednesday.
In the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which will repeal the Human Security Act of 2007, lawmakers have decided to remove the provision imposing a P500,000 fine for each day that a terror suspect is wrongfully detained.
Sotto cited this "excessive safeguard" as the reason why the 12-year old Human Security Act was deemed the "weakest" in Asia.
"Sinong pulis ang manghuhuli [kung] magbabayad ka ng P500,000 a day kung mali ka? Kaya walang mahuli eh. Iyun 'yung mga sumobrang safeguards noong una eh, kaya nga namin inalis eh," Sotto said in an interview on ABS-CBN's Teleradyo.
The particular penalty, Sotto said, has mostly worked against law enforcers.
"Nabalewala 'yung Human Security Act. Pinagtatawanan nga tayo sa ibang bansa eh. Isipin mo, babayaran mo 'yung inaresto mo nang P500,000 a day? Kung pulis ka, sinong pulis ang manghuhuli?" he said.
Rommel Banlaoi, chairman of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence, and Terrorism Research who provided inputs in the crafting of the bill, said the penalty was preventing police from using the HSA against terrorists.
"Many were afraid because it wasn’t clear in the law who would shoulder the amount - the arresting officer or the PNP?" he said.
Sotto said there are other laws in place that will guarantee compensation for victims of wrongful detention.
"May mga ibang batas na nakakasakop dyan. Hindi na kailangan gamitin at ilagay pa dito [sa Anti-Terrorism Act]."
The Senate passed the anti-terrorism measure on third and final reading in February.
Criticism against the bill grew as the House of Representatives adopted the Senate's version and eventually passed it on final reading Wednesday, 2 days after President Rodrigo Duterte certified it as urgent.