MANILA - Quelling terrorism goes beyond law enforcement, Sen. Francis Pangilinan said Wednesday, as he cited vague provisions in the Anti-Terrorism Bill that he said makes it open to abuse.
Speaking on ANC's Headstart, Pangilinan said government should look at a new approach against the root of terrorism, as the bill arises from the traditional way that is strengthening law enforcement.
"It's not just about law enforcement. Terrorism is bred by poverty, lack of opportunities, radicalization, and therefore you have to have a different approach to it and not just anti-terror law,” he said.
Pangilinan, along with fellow minority Sen. Risa Hontiveros, are the two senators who voted against the anti-terror bill, which has drawn heavy protest over concerns it may lead to abuse.
Congress transmitted the controversial bill to Malacañang on Tuesday and is up for review. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the bill is already under scrutiny by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea's legal department.
“The President did certify this urgent, so he agrees with the principal author of the bill, Sen. Ping Lacson, that there is a need for the law,” said Roque in an earlier interview also on ANC’s Headstart.
“But the public interest on the bill will make the President review the provisions of the bill even more closer,” assured Roque.
The bill, which amends the 2007 Human Security Act, allows for the detention of suspects without charges after warrantless arrest for up to 24 days - a provision that has caused concern among critics.
Those opposing the bill have also cited its broad definition of terrorism and provisions giving wider surveillance powers to authorities.
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
With Duterte agreeing to Lacson's version, Pangilinan believes that it will become a law.
“That’s why the next step is how do we contest and/or course our legal remedies, we'll need to bring the matter to the Supreme Court,” Pangilinan said.
Pangilinan, likewise, fears that the bill would be used to target critics, like what happened to Sen. Leila De Lima, now detained on drug charges, and ousted Supreme Court Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno.
He said it may also be abused, as what happened to the thousands killed in government's war on drugs.
"When these excesses are happening, who is to be confident that this law will not be abused or used to go after critics?" he said.
Meanwhile, Roque reiterated that the bill was not rushed as it has been pending since 2018.
He added that terror activities amidst the pandemic also played a part in the decision to certify the bill as urgent.
“Because in the time of COVID, the terrorists did not stop their nefarious activities,” he said.
He cited the clashes on May 27th that forced around 6,000 residents to flee their homes in Maguindanao, the attacks in Patikul, Sulu in June and the ambush of Department of Social Welfare officers distributing cash aid to poor families, as proof that terror activities persist.
“The reason is clear. They did not stop and they took advantage of COVID-19 to instill further fear amongst the people,” he said.
He added that Duterte’s certification is intended to make sure that it will pass in the House of Representatives.
“Because in the last 17th Congress it was passed in the Senate, but it did not pass in the House,” he said.