Lacson eyes stronger anti-terrorism law after deadly S. Kudarat blast
MANILA - Martial law and a measure giving wider self-rule to Muslims in the south did not ensure peace in the region, Senator Panfilo Lacson said Thursday, citing an explosion during a town festival in Sultan Kudarat that left 3 people killed.
Tuesday's blast was claimed by the Islamic State. It comes less than a month after a van bomb ripped through a military checkpoint in the neighboring Basilan province, killing 10 people.
"It only suggests that neither martial law nor the Bangsamoro Organic Law could guarantee peace in Mindanao," Lacson said in a statement.
President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Mindanao under martial law until the end of this year after pro-IS supporters laid siege to the southern city of Marawi in 2017.
Last month, Duterte approved the Bangsamoro Organic Law, the product of years of negotiation between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country's largest Moro rebel group.
The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), an MILF breakaway group sympathizing with the Islamic State, is "highly likely" behind Tuesday's explosion, the military said.
"It is my view that the National Security Council and our ground security forces should take a hard look at their security plans and strategy, especially in the South, and try to avert the vicious cycle of talking peace with one tribal group while alienating the others," said Lacson.
"As it may be shaping now, as we make peace with the MILF, a breakaway group is sowing terror," he added.
GIVING LAW MORE TEETH
The senator said he has filed a bill enhancing the decade-old Human Security Act.
Lacson's proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2018 penalizes foreign terrorists, including those who travel to a state other than their state of residence for committing or organizing terrorist acts; and those residing abroad who come to the Philippines in to take part in terrorist acts to target countries.
The bill also breaks away from the definition of terrorist acts as those perpetrated for the purpose of coercing the government to give in to a specific demand.
"This has the effect of punishing the act of committing crimes that sow widespread extraordinary fear and panic, and not the purpose behind the commission of such acts," Lacson said.
The bill, however, makes it clear that terrorist acts shall exclude legitimate exercises of the freedom of expression and right to peaceably assemble "where a person does not have the intention to use or urge the use of force or violence or cause harm to others," said the senator.
The measure also punishes recruiting for an armed force in a foreign state; publishing an ad or propaganda; and inciting to commit terrorist acts.
It also allows state forces to conduct operations for up to 90 days against suspected terrorists, upon the authorization of the Anti-Terrorism Commission and the court that has territorial jurisdiction over the area.
The Anti-Terrorism Commission shall be an agency attached to the Office of the President. It shall be headed by the Executive Secretary and 4 commissioners appointed by the President.
A suspect could be detained for up to 30 days even without a valid arrest warrant, provided that the detention was a result of the surveillance. False prosecution may be punishable by damages of up to P50,000 while furnishing false evidence is punishable by imprisonment of 12 to 20 years.
The Commission on Human Rights shall investigate and prosecute rights abuses in the implementation of the law.
The long-running insurgency in the south has killed some 100,000 people by government count and stunted economic growth in the region.