MANILA – Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda has withdrawn his affirmative vote for the new anti-terror bill amid growing calls to scrap the controversial measure.
In his letter to House secretary-general Atty. Jose Luis Montales, the lower chamber’s committee on ways and means chair requested to change his vote to abstention, citing the absence of a bicameral conference committee meeting to address concerns on the bill.
“Without a bicameral conference, there will be no opportunity for House members to help address the abovementioned reservations,” he said.
Before adjourning its first regular session sine die, the House adopted the Senate version of the anti-terrorism bill.
The lower chamber then approved the measure on third and final reading with 168-36 votes and 29 abstentions.
This foregoes the need for a bicameral conference committee and paves the way for the bill to be enrolled for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature.
In his letter, Salceda explained why he voted yes with reservations.
“This representation voted yes with reservations because while the bill would help law enforcement in prosecuting suspects, some definitions must be tightened to ensure the protection of the rights of the people. Provisions inconsistent with human rights and the 1987 Constitution must also be amended,” he said.
Salceda raised concerns over vague provisions of the proposed law.
“First, HB No. 6875 defines the acts of terrorism, ranging from endangering a person's life to mere planning to committing such an act, where the accused could face a sentence equivalent to life imprisonment without parole. Unfortunately, the provisions on “threat” under Section 5, “Preparing” under Section 6, and “recruitment to and membership in a terrorist organization” under Section 10 are vague and could give rise to various interpretations,” he said.
Salceda also believes some provisions must be calibrated as these may affect the right to privacy of individuals, as enunciated by the Supreme Court in the case of Ople vs. Torres, G.R. No. 127685 July 23, 1998.
“Section 3(i) thereof includes the tracking of individuals, and not just members of organizations declared as terrorist. Section 16 of the measure also expands the list of persons who may be subjected to surveillance or wiretapping by including persons who are merely 'suspected' of committing any of the crimes penalized under the proposed law,” he said.
Salceda also noted that the creation of the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) composed of Cabinet officials to do functions otherwise reserved for courts such as ordering the arrest of people suspected to be terrorists, would be inconsistent with the principle of separation of powers and would be a violation of the Constitutional powers of the judiciary.
Salceda also believes a portion of the bill is unconstitutional.
“Fourth, under Section 29 of the measure, a person suspected of violating the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act may be detained for 14 days, extendible for another 10 days. Article 7, Section 18 of the Constitution, provides that even when the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is suspended, the maximum period that a person can be detained without charges is three days,” he said.