MANILA - Security officials stressed Wednesday the need for a new antI-terrorism law due to the threat of terrorism, even as various groups continued to oppose the bill.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said local and foreign terrorists continue to be at large and the measure was needed to promote a “culture of orderliness, legality and security” in the country.
“Activism, in short, is not terrorism, and I have also said terrorism is not activism dahil kinover na ang mga acts na hindi covered ng terrorism (the bill covered acts that were not covered by terrorism),” he said.
Esperon also dismissed allegations that the government was “red-tagging" civic groups, as he said exiled communist leader Jose Maria Sison has allegedly named in a video that groups such as Bayan, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Migrante, and Kilusang Mayo Uno support his revolution.
“Hindi naman natin kailangan i-red tag sila dahil lumalabas naman sa ginagawa nila,” he said.
(We don't need to red-tag them because it shows in their actions.)
National Intelligence Coordinating Agency Director General Alex Monteagudo meanwhile said the Human Security Act has not helped prevent terrorist attacks, citing the Marawi siege of 2017, Jolo Cathedral bombing last year, a clash between the Abu Sayyaf and government in Sulu which killed 12 soldiers, and the first Filipino suicide bomber.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said local officials have expressed support for the passage of the bill as the Philippines ranked 9th in the Global Terrorism Index last year.
These include the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines, 13 regional peace and order councils, 43 governors, 68 city mayors, and 673 municipal mayors, according to Año.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, principal author of the bill, said the measure does not add new elements for warrantless arrests.
He said the Anti-Terrorism Council’s written authorization for a warrantless arrest is issued to law enforcers who are trained for investigating terror acts.
The Commission on Human Rights said this should be clearly stated in the law as it noted safeguards such as conditions for warrantless arrest and a P500,000 penalty for each day of wrongful detention were removed.
"When we make a bill, it should not be subject to misconstruction or misunderstanding so we should be very clear,” CHR commissioner Gwen Pimentel-Gana said.