THE House of Representatives on Wednesday approved on third and final reading a bill that seeks to expand the coverage of terror acts and allow the military to intercept private communications of suspects under surveillance.

There were 173 congressmen who voted yes, 31 who voted no and 29 who abstained.

The measure allows the Anti-Terror Council (ATC) made up of Cabinet officials to do functions otherwise reserved for courts, such as ordering the arrest of suspected terrorists. It also allows the state to keep a suspect in jail without an arrest warrant for 14 days from three days now.

Vice President Maria Leonor G. Robredo in a statement questioned the timing of the bill.

“Apart from the timing, I want to clarify if the proposed law is really the answer to terrorism,” she said, adding that there is a need to clarify each provision of the bill.

Meanwhile, House Minority Leader and Manila Rep. Bienvenido M. Abante, Jr. said he was disappointed that the House had failed to come up with its own version of the bill.

“The House of Representatives simply adopted the Senate version of the Anti-Terror bill and did not even see it fit to deliberate and formulate its own version,” he told the plenary.

The Senate passed the bill as early as February. President Rodrigo R. Duterte, who certified the bill as urgent this week, only has to enact the measure for it to become a law. — Genshen L. Espedido