Lawmakers should've amended existing terror law instead of repealing it: IBP

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 14 2020 10:21 AM | Updated as of Jun 14 2020 10:33 AM

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MANILA - The Integrated Bar of the Philippines said Sunday lawmakers should have amended the Human Security Act instead of scrapping and replacing it with the new anti-terror bill.

The "only impractical" provision in the 2007 law was its penalty of P500,000 per day of suspected terrorists' wrongful detention, according to IBP national president Domingo Cayosa.

"Dahil dyan, marami sa ating mga law enforcers, militar, hindi na kinakasuhan (yung suspect) as a terrorist, pero kinaakasuhan sila as arsonist, (for) illegal possession of firearms, murder, homicide. At nakukulong naman sila. So, hindi ibig sabihin, nakakalusot... Kaya lang, ang sinasabi nila noon, nakakatakot kaya nga parang di na namin ginagamit," Cayosa told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.

(Because of that, many of our law enforcers don't charge [a suspect] as a terrorist, but as an arsonist, for illegal possession of firearms, murder, homicide. And they get imprisoned. So, it doesn't mean they get to evade... But they say they are scared that's why the law is not being used.)

"Hindi naman ho scot-free yung terorista. Nahuhuli pa rin ho sila. Yung ang punto. Kung yun (P500,000 penalty) ang problema, yun ang amyendahan. Gawin nating mas mababa yung amount."

(The terrorist does not run scot-free. They get arrested. That is the point. If that's [P500,000 penalty] the problem, amend it. Lower the amount.)

The new measure replaced the P500,000 penalty with 10-year imprisonment, Cayosa said.

But the IBP viewed some provisions in the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which is already awaiting President Rodrigo Duterte's signature, as unconstitutional, such as the Anti-Terrorism Council's power to authorize the detention of suspected terrorists for up to 24 days.

Cayosa said the Constitution states that as part of checks and balances of the different branches in government, search and arrest warrants are issued by the judicial branch. The ATC, he said, belongs to the executive branch.

He said the ATC can also ask the Anti-Money Laundering Council to freeze a suspect's assets.

"Pangalawa, sa ating Konstitusyon, kahit ho sa pinakamalubhang sitwasyon na may invasion or rebellion at suspendido yung privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, ang Konstitusyon ay nagbibigay ng maximum of three days para pag ikaw ay hinuli nang walang warrant, dapat kasuhan ka," Cayosa said.

(Secondly, in our Constitution, even in times of invasion or rebellion and during the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, the Constitution sets a maximum of three days for a suspect apprehended without a warrant to be formally charged.)

"Eh, dito sa [panukalang] batas na 'to, ang binibigay sa mga law enforcers 'pag hinuli ka dahil suspected terrorist ka, eh maximum of 24 days. So, yun ho malinaw na paglabag."

(But in this proposed law, it is giving law enforcers a maximum of 24 days if you are apprehended for being a suspected terrorist. That is a clear violation.)

Addressing comparisons with anti-terror measures in Singapore and Australia, Cayosa said the Constitution of those countries provides no limits, unlike the Philippines'.

"Sa atin ho, meron kasi napaso na tayo nung panahon ng Martial Law. Kaya nag-iingat yung gumawa ng Constitution. So, hangga't hindi mabago yung Konstitusyon na 'yan, di ho ba dapat, sundan natin? 'Wag nating sundan yung Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, or anumang bansa kasi iba ang Constitution nila sa atin," Cayosa said.

(There are limits in ours because of our experience during the Martial Law. That's why the framers of the Constitution were careful. So, until we have changed our Constitution, shouldn't we abide by it? Let's not copy Singapore, Australia, Malaysia or any other country because their Constitution is different from ours.)

Under the 'due process' clause in the Constitution, there should be clear grounds for one's arrest. "Eh dito (sa bagong anti-terror bill), dinagdagan ang mga pwedeng arestuhin. Pati yung suspicion lang o association, eh pwede nang kina-classify dun sa malawak at malabong description ng ano ba yung terrorist act," Cayosa continued.

(But here [in the new anti-terror bill], additional actions as basis of arrest were listed. Even mere suspicion or association may already be classified under the broad and vague description of what a terrorist act is.)

"Maaaring magamit yan para takutin ang mga tao para sa malayang pamamahayag, o kaya, sa kamay ng abusadong gobyerno, pwede hong i-weaponize yan to further suppress yung Constitutional freedoms natin," he warned.

(And that may be used to threaten the people's freedom of expression, or, under an abusive government, that may be weaponized to further suppress our Constitutional freedoms.)

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, primary sponsor of the measure, has belied the group's first claim, saying the council may only ask the Court of Appeals for an arrest warrant.

Lacson had said the measure was initially an amendment to the Human Security Act but senators later decided to repeal it for being a "dead letter law," citing only 1 conviction since its enactment.

Should the new measure be signed into law by Duterte, who certified it as urgent, or lapse into law after 30 days, those who oppose it may question it before the Supreme Court, Cayosa said.

"They should act independent of the executive even if lahat 'yan mga appointee ng President (they are all appointees of the President)," he said of the high court justices.

"Pwede rin, ang gagawin ng Supreme Court, wala pa namang naaaresto, naaagrabyado so kayong nagkukuwestiyon dyan, wag muna. Yun po ang iniiwasan natin. Kaysa umabot sa ganun, baka pwedeng ayusin natin ang batas."

(The Supreme Court can also take no action as long as no one has been arrested or harassed. That's what we're avoiding. Before it comes to that, we should fix the law.)

The President may also veto the measure and send it back to Congress, according to Cayosa.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) vowed Saturday to review the proposed anti-terror bill "as independently and objectively as possible," amid public clamor to scrap the controversial measure.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the agency was requested to submit its comments on the proposed legislation to the Office of the President by Wednesday, June 17.

Political analyst Clarita Carlos of the University of the Philippines told TeleRadyo in a separate interview Sunday that terrorism, which should not be condoned, must be addressed in its roots, and not only its symptoms.

"You continue to have these insurgencies, terrorism continues all over the world kasi hindi mo inuugat yung oppression, yung sense of injustice, yung marginalization ng mga tao na gumagamit ng ganitong mga paraan. Kasi, yung terorismo, paraan yan ng walang kapangyarihan kaya yung kanilang randomness, massive fatalities, yun ang pinapakita nila sa mundo na pakinggan sila," Carlos said.

(You continue to have these insurgencies, terrorism continues all over the world because you don't address oppression, the sense of injustice, and marginalization of people who resort to these means. Terrorism is the tool of the powerless, that's why their randomness, massive fatalities is their way to seek the world's recognition.)

Carlos also wants the new anti-terror bill to be reviewed.

"We're not saying, 'Let's not have it.' Linisin n'yo lang dahil andaming mga lubak diyan sa ginawa n'yong draft na 'yan," she said.

(Just polish it because the draft has many problems.)