The Senate, voting 19-2, on Wednesday approved on final reading Senate Bill No. 1083, which toughens the law against terrorism and effectively repealing the Human Security Act of 2007.

Senators Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay, Pia Cayetano, Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, Grace Poe, Imee Marcos, Manuel “Lito” Lapid, Joel Villanueva, Cynthia Villar, Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao, Win Gatchalian, Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, Richard Gordon, Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, Bong Revilla, Francis Tolentino, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, Majority Leader Migz Zubiri and Senate President Vicente Sotto III voted in the affirmative while Senators Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros dissented.

The proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 seeks a “strong legal backbone” to support the country’s criminal justice response to terrorism, provide law enforcers tools to protect the public from the threat of terrorism and, at the same time, safeguard the rights of the accused.

“We need a strong legal structure that deals with terrorism to exact accountability, liability and responsibility. Those who have committed, are about to commit, or are supporting those who commit terroristic acts should be prosecuted and penalized accordingly,” Lacson, sponsor of the measure, said.

The measure includes a new section on foreign terrorist fighters to cover Filipino nationals who commit terrorist offenses abroad.

Senate Bill 1083 introduced provisions imposing life imprisonment without parole on those who will propose, incite, conspire, and 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 anyone to be a member of a terrorist organization.

Under the bill, any person who threatens to commit terrorism will suffer a 12-year prison term. The same term will be meted against those who propose terroristic acts or incite others to commit terrorism.

Any person who voluntarily and knowingly join any organization, association or group of persons knowing that such is a terrorist organization, will suffer imprisonment of 12 years. The same penalty will be imposed on any person found liable as accessory in the commission of terrorism.

The bill also removed the provision on payment of P500,000 damages per day of detention of any person acquitted of terrorism charges. But the number of days a suspected person can be detained without a warrant of arrest is 14 calendar days, extendible by 10 days.

The amendments also provide for the police or the military to conduct a 60-day surveillance on suspected terrorists, which may be lengthened to another non-extendable period of 30 days, provided that they secure a judicial authorization from the Court of Appeals (CA).

Any law enforcement or military personnel found to have violated the rights of accused persons will be penalized with imprisonment of 10 years, the senator said.

To allay concerns of possible excesses by the authorities, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) will be notified in case of detention of a suspected terrorist.

The measure also mandates the CHR to give the highest priority to the investigation and prosecution of violations of civil and political rights of persons and will have the concurrent jurisdiction to prosecute public officials, law enforcers and other persons who may have violated the civil and political rights of suspects and detained persons.

Hontiveros and Pangilinan opposed some provisions of the bill that they said would impinge on rights and liberty.

Pangilinan noted that the proposed definition of terrorism is vague and encompassing, making it open to abuse as simplest or common crimes could be framed by errant law enforcers as acts of terrorism.

“The prolonged detention is an impingement of rights and liberty. Why 14 days? If security officials and law enforcers are doing their job, why will it take them long to file a case? Or, is the practice of arrest and detain now, produce or invent evidence later still prevalent, as it was when opposition leader Jovy Salonga was arrested, detained, and charged in 1981? The current law is not perfect, and we, in Congress, should be working continuously to make it work for the people,” he said.

“The amendments, however, are worrisome and could make the Human Security Act an even worse tool for repression instead of an instrument for thwarting terrorists,” Pangilinan added.

Hontiveros agreed, arguing that safety and security should never be at the expense of fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.

“While all rights permit exceptions, I fear that certain provisions of the bill — specifically those allowing the preliminary proscription of suspected terrorist organizations prior to their being given an opportunity to be heard as well as those lowering the standard for warrantless arrest and detention — go too far and might lead to a number of pernicious consequences,” she said. (

Thumbnail photo by Joseph Vidal/Senate PRIB