MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte said the public should not worry about the new anti-terror law if they are not terrorists.
Addressing the nation for the first time since he signed the law last Friday, Duterte said law-abiding citizens of the country will not be targetted by the law.
"For the law-abiding citizen of this country, I am addressing you with all sincerity. Huwag ho kayong matakot kung hindi ka terorista. Kung hindi ka naman sisirain mo ang gobyerno, pasabugin mo ang simbahan, pasabugin mo 'yung public utilities, pasabugin mo 'yung, just to derail, matumba na tuloy ang bayan," he said during a public briefing aired early Wednesday.
(For the law-abiding citizen of this country, I am addressing you with all sincerity. You should not be afraid if you are not a terrorist. If you are not going to destroy the government, or blow up a church, blow up public utilities, just to derail, topple the government.)
"Kung wala mangyari na masama, wala namang problema (If nothing bad happens, then there is no problem). Pero (But) once you blow up simbahan, blow up mo 'yung marketplace. The right to defend itself accrues to the government heavily," Duterte added.
He also said the state has the right to defend itself against terrorists, especially those who kill people "wantonly".
"If you do that to the people, if you kill them wantonly, then I would take it as a right to kill you," Duterte said.
Duterte on Friday signed into law a bill that seeks to sharpen the Philippines' anti-terrorism campaign despite heavy opposition over fears it could be used to silence government critics.
Republic Act No. 11479, or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, was signed just days before it was to lapse into law. Congress on June 9 transmitted the bill to Malacañang for President Duterte's signature.
On the same day that he signed the law, the President faced government troops in Zamboanga City to ease tensions between the military and police.
Policemen in Sulu shot dead four soldiers last June 29 in what the police initially say was a misencounter, but which the military describe as a "murder" and a "rubout." The National Bureau of Investigation is investigating the incident.
The new law, which has been heavily criticized on fears that it could be used to silence government critics, is facing several challenges at the Supreme Court.
The stricter anti-terror law comes as the Philippines continued efforts to stop terror activities, including kidnappings and bombing operations of the Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf group, extremists that the United Nations tagged as terrorists in 2001.
In 2017, the Duterte administration had to quell a 5-month siege waged by local terror group Maute, also linked to ISIS, in the southern city of Marawi. The prolonged firefights left over 1,000 people dead, mostly terrorists, and reduced the Islamic city in shambles. - with a report from Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News