Duterte's chief legal counsel backs anti-terror bill

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 11 2020 08:36 AM | Updated as of Jun 11 2020 08:53 AM

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MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte's chief counsel said Thursday he would recommend the signing of the anti-terror bill which has sparked protests nationwide.

The measure was earlier transmitted to Malacañang and is being reviewed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and government lawyers, according to Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo.

The bill will lapse into law should the President take no action, he added.

"The fears and the opposition with due respect are misplaced. They have to read the entire law and correlate the provision. They cannot be picking up one provision and...express fear for some draconian measures that do not even exist except in their minds," he told ANC.

"I don't think there is vagueness, that is their interpretation. I checked every provision of the law and it's very strict."

Contrary to criticisms, Panelo said the anti-terror council, composed of 9 Cabinet members, does not have any judicial or quasi-judicial power.

The authorities will have to ask the council's permission to go to the Court of Appeals for gathering of evidence against a suspected terrorist, Panelo said.

The council will also be composed of 3 lawyers such as the Executive Secretary, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr, and 6 secretaries who are knowledgeable on terrorism, Panelo said.

"I don’t think we will have a lack of legal knowledge in determining a preliminary probable cause...only in the sense you can go to the Court of Appeals to ask for judicial order," he said.

"They are not exercising the determination of probable cause with respect to the arrest of the suspect."

The arrested suspected terrorist may also immediately challenge his detention, Panelo said.

"He can go to the Supreme Court and file for a writ of habeas corpus questioning the legal basis under which he is being detained. He can file a petition for writ of amparo...he can file a petition for bail. Remedies are there."