MANILA (2ND UPDATE) - The Anti-Terrorism Bill has been transmitted to Malacañang for President Rodrigo Duterte's signature, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Tuesday.
Sotto said he and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano signed the controversial measure on Monday evening, and submitted it for the President's approval Tuesday morning.
"Alan signed last night... The bill is on the way to the President this morning," Sotto told reporters in a text message when asked about the status of the bill.
While the anti-terror bill seeks to strengthen the Human Security Act of 2007 to prevent terrorists from using the Philippines as a "safe haven," the proposed measure - which allows law enforcers to detain a suspected terrorist up to 24 days without a warrant - drew online criticism due to fear that the measure can be used to silence government critics.
Sotto, one of the authors of the measure, argued that protesters and activists could not be considered as terrorists under the bill.
"Akala nila 'pag kontra sa gobyerno puwede nang i-classify na terrorist, hindi. Gusto mo murahin mo ang gobyerno, morning, noon and night, hindi ka puwede pa rin, you do not fall under the category definition," the Senate President told reporters in a press conference last week.
(They think that if you are against the government, you can be classified as a terrorist, but that is not the case. You can curse at the government morning, noon and night, and you still do not fall under the category definition.)
While the Anti-Terror bill is tough, its safeguards against human rights violations are "even tougher," said Sen. Panfilo Lacson, the main author of the measure.
The bill strips the current Human Security Act of 2007 of a provision that guarantees a P500,000 daily fine for wrongfully detaining suspects but imposes a 10-year prison term for law enforcers who violate a detainee's rights, he said.
But protesters are more concerned about the "vague" definition of terrorism in the bill.
Under the measure, persons may be deemed to have committed terrorism when they:
- Engage in acts intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to any person, or endangers a person’s life;
- Engage in acts intended to cause extensive damage or destruction to a government or public facility, public place or private property;
- Engage in acts intended to cause extensive interference with, damage or destruction to critical infastructure;
- Develop, manufacture, possess, acquire, transport, supply or use weapons, explosives of biological, nuclear, radiological or chemical weapons; and
- Release dangerous substances, or causing fire, floods or explosions when the purpose of such act, by its nature and context, is to intimidate the general public
Sen. Francis Tolentino said critics of the bill can help craft its implementing rules and regulations once it has been signed into law.
"There are still some spaces for those dissenting. Perhaps they can participate in the formulation of the implementing rules and regulations," he said.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros said several groups are planning to question the constitutionality of the Anti-Terror bill before the Supreme Court once it is signed into law.
Speaking on ANC's Headstart, Hontiveros said she voted against the bill because of several contentious provisions, including its broad definition of terrorism.
“Masyadong pinalawak 'yung dati nang mukhang mas eksaktong depenisyon, and it could encompass a broad range of citizen action and even expression sa loob ng ating sinasabing demokrasya,” said Hontiveros.
(The exact definition was broadened, it could encompass a broad range of citizen action and even expression within a democracy.)
She said citizens need to be "ever more vigilant" now in protecting rights and freedoms.
"Every loss of inch of space, in terms of protecting those rights and freedoms, will really give rise to apprehensions lalo na mga kaso ng (especially cases of) heavy handedness or even abuse on the part our law enforcers recently o kahit na ngayon may COVID-19 pandemic at quarantines (even now that there is a pandemic and quarantines),” said Hontiveros, who along with fellow opposition Sen. Francis Pangilinan voted against the bill.
PALACE VOWS REVIEW
Duterte earlier certified the anti-terror bill as urgent, but his spokesperson said that the measure will undergo a "final review" as opposition against the bill grew both locally and internationally.
As of June 9 noon, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said Malacañang has yet to receive the enrolled copy of the bill.
"Iyan naman po ay dadaan sa proseso. Pag-aaralan mabuti ang mga provision at kung mayroon pong mga provision na unconstitutional, i-aadvise po si Presidente kung ive-veto or hindi," Roque said in a Palace press briefing.
(That will undergo a process. The provisions will be reviewed and if there is anything unconstitutional, the President will be advised if he should veto it or not.)