MANILA - Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday belied the Integrated Bar of the Philippines' claim that a proposed 9-member Council under the Anti-Terrorism Bill could "authorize in writing" the arrest of suspected terrorists.
The IBP earlier "called attention" to the "possible unconstitutionality" of several provisions in the Anti-Terror bill, noting that an individual cannot be detained without charging him or her in court.
"NO SIR! It is ONLY to request the AMLC (Anti-Money Laundering Council) to freeze the accounts and the CA (Court of Appeals) to issue an order to wiretap, NOT arrest," Lacson said in a tweet meant as a response to IBP's statement.
Under the anti-terror bill, the proposed Anti-Terror Council - headed by the Executive Secretary - is authorized to "formulate and adopt" plans and programs that would "prevent, counter, suppress, or eradicate the commission of terrorism in the country and to protect the people from such acts."
"The program shall focus on operational activities to disrupt and combat terrorism activities and attacks... and the arrest of suspected terrorists," the bill read.
The bill also stipulates that the ATC's anti-terror program "shall ensure respect for human rights and adherence to the rule of law."
"Nothing herein shall be interpreted to empower the ATC to exercise any judicial or quasi-judicial power or authority," it said.
But oppositors of the bill - including lawmakers, schools, and local and international celebrities - are more concerned about the "vague" definition of a terrorist, saying it could be used to detain critics of the government.
Lacson has argued that while the bill may seem tough to some sectors, the measure provides "tougher" safeguards, including a 10-year jail term and perpetual disqualification from public office of law enforcers who commit human rights abuses.
"Many of those opposing the anti-terrorism measure have now shifted their aim to target the implementation. They have mastered the art of argumentation - when you run out of sound reasons to argue, just say: BASTA! (whatever)," Lacson said.
The anti-Terror bill was been sent to Malacañang on June 9, but has yet to be signed by President Rodrigo Duterte. It has drawn heavy protests, with critics concerned its provisions might lead to human rights abuses and empower authorities to quell legitimate opposition.