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Anti-terrorism bill signed into law without amendments

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Filipinos protest against anti-terrorism bill on Independence Day. Images courtesy of Reuters.

PRESIDENT RODRIGO R. Duterte on Friday signed the anti-terrorism bill despite widespread calls for a veto and further consultations on provisions that could infringe on constitutional rights.

Now logged as Republic Act 11479 or The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, the bill transmitted by Congress was approved by the President “in toto,” according to Interior Secretary Eduardo G. Año.

RA 11479 states that the government “recognizes that the fight against terrrorism requires a comprehensive approach, comprising political, economic, diplomatic, military, and legal means duly taking into account the root causes of terrorism without acknowledging these as justifications for terrorist and/or criminal activities.”

A terrorist is defined in the law as a person who engages in acts intended to harm any person or endanger their life; engages in activities meant to destroy or damage public or private property; engages in acts meant to interfere with critical infrastucture; is involved with the development, possession, or transporting of weapons and explosives; or releases dangerous substances or causes fires, floods and explosions.

Those found participating and/or conspiring in the planning, training, facilitation or preparation of such terrorist acts can also be charged andbe sentenced to life imprisonment without any chance for parole.

RA 11479 amends the Human Security Act of 2007, which supporters of the controversial law say was too weak to address the terror threat in the country.

Critics, on the other hand, have questioned several provisions that threaten rights and raised alarms over possible abuse by security forces.

Earlier on Friday, almost 300 organizations representing various sectors, including the business community, have signed an appeal calling on Mr. Duterte to veto the bill and allow for further public discussion.

The 295 organizations, which include 14 business groups and 28 labor groups, launched an online petition,through change.org, opposing the bill.

“We the undersigned citizens and organizations appeal to the President to veto the Anti-Terrorism bill. We are one with its proponents that we need the proper legal provisions to fight this scourge,” the organizations said.

“However, more thorough discussion is needed to get broad support for a law as important as this, and to strengthen the unity the country needs to fight the bigger health and economic crisis we are all facing.”

The Management Association of the Philippines, Makati Business Club, and Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines have signed on, along with various academic institutions, political and youth groups, and religious organizations.

The parliament of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao also appealed for a veto.

Among the questioned provisions is the power given to the Anti-Terror Council (ATC) composed of Cabinet officials to order the arrest of suspected terrorists, a function otherwise reserved for courts.

It also allows the government to arrest terror suspects without a warrant and detain them for up to 14 days.

Palace Spokesperson Harry L. Roque said in a statement on Friday evening, “(T)he President, together with his Legal Team, took time to study this piece of legislation weighing the concerns of different stakeholders. ”

The implementing rules and regulations of the law will be drafted by the ATC and the Department of Justice “with the active participation of police and military institutions” within 90 days from the law’s effectivity. — Gillian M. Cortez and Jenina P. Ibañez





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