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The anti-terror act is a hard pill to swallow

The House members approved House Bill (HB) No. 6875 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 on 2nd reading on Tuesday, June 2 and this means the measure only needs a 3rd and final reading.

19 senators have previously approved Senate Bill 1083 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 seeking to amend the Human Security Act of 2007. The 2 senators who did not approve are opposition senators Risa Hontiveros and Francis Pangilinan.

Under the measure, there are provisions introduced on penalizing those who will propose, incite, conspire, participate in the planning, training, preparation, and facilitation of a terrorist act; as well as those who will provide material support to terrorists, and recruit members in a terrorist organization.

“It is as good as passed,” said Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday, a day after President Rodrigo Duterte certified the measure as urgent. If that’s the case, the act will be a hard pill to swallow for those who oppose this measure.

This recent developments raise concerns from various groups and human rights advocates against the measure, citing amendments that they said authorize violations of basic human rights in the country.

The measure repeals the Human Security Act of 2007 by giving more surveillance powers to the military and police. Under this extra power of authority, human rights advocates knew or expect worst things could happen to anybody if the military or police were given wrong information of a person under their surveillance.

A 12-year jail time will be imposed to any person who shall threaten to commit any act of terrorism, propose any such acts or incite others to commit terrorism. Meaning, you cannot just make a public post on social media, then admit afterwards that it was just a joke, if it looks like you’re inciting to sedition. Remember the Facebook post of a teacher from Zambales who offered money to anybody who can kill the president?

Life imprisonment may also be imposed on those who will facilitate terrorist acts or recruit people to terror groups.

The bill also allows surveillance activities such as tracking down individuals or organizations, wire-tapping and recording of discussions and other communications of individuals supposedly engaged in terrorism. Meaning, you should be very careful with your conversations over the phone because any subject matter that will pose a link or suspicion to terrorism might get you your ticket to jail.

It seeks to extend too the number of days suspected terrorists can be detained without a warrant of arrest – from three days under the current law to up to 14 days.

Sotto, however, allayed fears that the measure can be used against critics and members of the opposition.

“I suggest they read the bill first before reacting. Terrorists or their supporters are the only ones who will be afraid of the bill,” he said.

Senator Panfilo Lacson also said that there are “enough safeguards” surrounding the measure.

The Ateneo Human Rights Center (AHRC) appealed to Congress to “reject this piece of legislation.”

“The passage of the anti-terror bill is a glaring attempt to weaponize the law to silence critics and suppress lawful dissent. The attempt to use the anti-terror bill as a tool for repression rather than for thwarting terrorism is appalling,” said the AHRC, adding to the growing list of lawyers’ groups to oppose the bill.

UPDATE (June 3, 2020 / 9:34 PM)

With 173-31-29 votes, the House of Representatives approves on third and final reading House Bill 6875, which prohibits and penalizes any acts of terrorism. This was recently certified urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte.


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