The House of Representatives passed the controversial “Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020” on third reading Wednesday, 173-31, and with 29 abstentions.
With the House entirely adopting the Senate version passed in February, there is no more need for bicameral deliberations, and the bill goes straight to President Rodrigo Duterte for signature.
Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon, one of the sponsors of the measure, House Bill 6875, swung to a “no” vote, pointing out that there was no deliberation in the House.
“To my colleagues and to the security agencies that we have been working with regard to this bill, I beg your understanding. My position after all that have been said by the Members of the House of Representatives, I believe that we should stand up for the House,” Biazon said.
“And because of this, my vote is no to the bill. My name could not be attached to a bill that is not my real work. So, my withdrawal as author of the measure is another thing that I would like to present to the House.”
The bill, certified urgent by the president on June 1, prolongs the period during which terrorism suspects could be detained without warrant to 24 days instead of three, and the period of surveillance to 90 days from 60.
It will create an Anti-Terrorism Council that can designate individuals and groups as terrorists, and allow the Department of Justice to outlaw groups suspected of engaging in terrorist activities.
It also redefines terrorism, which is punishable with life imprisonment without parole, and covers activities such as planning, proposing, recruiting, as well as inciting to terrorism. The P500,000 fine for wrongful prosecution under the Human Security Act of 2007 was removed.
Lanao del Norte Rep. Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo questioned the haste in the passage of the bill, while AMIN party-list Rep. Amihilda Sangcopan warned against Islamophobia.
“This bill will unjustifiedly broaden the influence of the already heavy-handed military and police forces through the extension of their surveillance power, including wire-tapping and recording conversation, effecting warrantless arrests,” she said.
Rep. Mike Defensor of Anakalusugan party-list, who also objected to the bill, said the provision on the designation of terrorist individuals and groups would deprive suspects of due process.
“Dito po, kapag sinabing ikaw ay terorista, wala kang paraan para depensahan ang iyong sarili. Ni hindi ka mabibigyan ng pagkakataon na ipagtanggol ang iyong sarili,” he said.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III defended the bill, saying all safeguards were included in the final version, Senate Bill 1083.
He said political dissent was not covered by the anti-terror measure.
“Akala nila pag contra sa gobyerno pwede ng iclasiffy na terrorist, hindi. Gusto mo murahin mo ang gobyerno, morning, noon and night, hindi ka pwede pa rin. [If] you do not fall under the category definition of the United Nations Security Council as a terrorist, then you are not,” he told reporters. (PressONE.ph)